Blazer of glory: Spieth looking for second coat

By Rex HoggardApril 5, 2016, 9:09 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – At a place with more ceremonies than a Greek wedding it’s slightly anticlimactic that returning the most iconic symbol of major championship success is as unceremonial as hanging up a coat.

The coveted green jacket that golfers grow up wanting to win has never been far from Jordan Spieth the last 12 months. He’s traveled with it, he’s glanced at it, daily, in his closet, he’s even entertained friends and grilled with it on.

But Spieth’s run as Masters champion ends this week and with that passing goes the green jacket, which can now be worn only when he is on property at Augusta National unless he becomes the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to win back-to-back Masters.

Two weeks ago as he prepared to travel to the WGC-Dell Match Play, that reality sank in for Spieth.

“When I packed it to go down to Austin [Texas], I was like, wow, there's a possibility that I don't have this back at my house anymore when I was leaving home,” said Spieth, who has shown a refreshing amount of sentimentality in his young career. “It kind of fired me up a little bit. Just the jacket itself provides a little motivation, which is cool but at the same time, it's not easy.”

It’s not easy parting with his green jacket and it won’t be easy bringing it back home to Dallas, not if the oddsmakers are to be trusted.

Jason Day, who unseated Spieth atop the Official World Golf Ranking two weeks ago, is the favorite, which Spieth said was fine by him.

Inasmuch as a defending champion who blitzed Augusta National with an 18-under total for a wire-to-wire victory last spring can, Spieth is happy to be under the proverbial radar.

Spieth has, after all, not been his dominant self the past few months after opening his year with an eight-stroke victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Masters Tournament: Articles, photos and videos

Since Maui, his best Tour finish is a tie for ninth at the Match Play. After making an early run last Sunday at the Shell Houston Open that included four birdies in his first five holes, he faded into a tie for 13th place.

Against that backdrop Spieth begins his title defense with something less than his best stuff to those watching from outside the green punchbowl.

Just don’t tell the 22-year-old that.

“We know we're capable of playing this place. We have proven it to ourselves the last two years. So the focus is on this week, and we feel as confident as probably ever leading into at least on Tuesday,” Spieth said. “So my game actually feels better right now than I think it did last year on Tuesday.”

The record would suggest that Spieth is at least on par with his performances through the first six months of last season.

Heading down Magnolia Lane last year he had won once, a playoff victory at the Valspar Championship, and had just one missed cut, the same as this year.

Statistically, he is 62nd in driving distance this year (55th at this point last year), 79th in driving accuracy (101st in 2015) and fourth in birdie average (sixth).

Beyond the nuts and bolts of his season it’s the unquantifiable elements of Spieth’s game that seem to give him confidence going into this week’s event.

After winning the first two majors last year and coming within a stroke of adding the claret jug to his growing Grand Slam collection, Spieth has largely quieted the outside noise that comes with such success and focused his energies on the inside voices. 

“It's more the internal stuff that is trickier for me,” he said. “The only way it affects my golf is if I'm on the course and I feel like I'm giving strokes away and, therefore, I make an aggressive play that's unnecessary.”

Spieth also has history on his side.

Despite having played the Masters just twice he’s appeared to have the moves of a savvy veteran, avoiding the pitfalls both on and off the golf course the last two years and not allowing the enormity of the event to overcome him.

For Spieth, the familiarity is the byproduct of his early success when he finished runner-up to Bubba Watson in 2014.

“I think I was lucky that the first try, I wasn't trying as hard, and I think now I can just go back to the past couple years and draw off of that,” he said.

It’s that confidence, born from on-the-job experience, that helped temper his green jacket’s return to Augusta National this week, and why despite a chorus of concern over his recent form the moment was far from melancholy.

“I didn't take it for granted whatsoever,” Spieth said. “I think that I could have taken advantage of having it in my possession more than I did. But you learn and next time I'll do a little bit better.”

Next time.

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

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Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

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Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm