Cut Line: Housecleaning

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2011, 5:32 pm

Like Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief, there is a traditional flow when a Tour type begins a freefall into a competitive abyss. Normally the road kill would be: caddie, wife, manager, equipment/apparel affiliation, corporate deals and swing coach. So far, only Tiger Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg has escaped completely unscathed.

Wednesday’s news that Steve Williams had been handed a pink slip was particularly surprising given the caddie’s loyalty to his boss through Woods’ post-2009 scandal and the duo’s track record – 13 of Woods’ 14 majors came with Williams at his side.

One source familiar with the situation called the move “shocking,” so much so a “missed cut” in this week’s edition of Cut Line hardly does the firing justice.

Made Cut

Darren Clarke. He smiled, he swigged, he proved that something special can happen – even at Royal St. George’s. As 150-to-1 long shots go the Ulsterman proved to be straight out of central casting – a 42-year-old widower with a balky putting stroke and enough competitive baggage to require not one but two sports psychologists on speed dial.

Clarke may not have been an immediate favorite in American circles, but the storytellers in the United Kingdom could not have asked for a better champion – not Rory McIlroy, not Graeme McDowell, not even Lee Westwood.

The defining moment for Clarke came late Sunday when a familiar U.K. golf writer attempted to ask the champion a question:

“Hang on, let me just scratch my little head. I'm trying to recollect your little line,” Clarke smiled widely. “’He's in his inexorable slide toward irrelevance.’ Is that what you said?

“This is a mirage,” he said as he playfully pointed to the claret jug.


Tom Watson. Old Tom has turned the game’s oldest championship into one, long swansong as he refuses to go quietly into that good night – as they would poetically muse in the south English dunes.

On Sunday, having flirted with Open history . . . again, Watson was asked about a pre-championship trip to Normandy and some of the World War II monuments.

“Oh, there are a lot of things that can move me,” he said. “That particular turning point in World War II certainly was a feat extraordinaire.”

We feel the same way about Old Tom.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. Funny how three major champions in 13 months can widen roads and ease logistical concerns. Last week R&A chief Peter Dawson sounded downright lukewarm over the prospects of the Open Championship returning to Northern Ireland, specifically to storied Royal Portrush Golf Club which hosted the event in 1951.

On Monday, less than 24 hours after Royal Portrush member Darren Clarke’s emotional victory at Sandwich, Dawson seemed a little more open to the idea, “We’ll take a closer look at Portrush,” he allowed, before adding, “What it doesn’t have, I don’t know yet until we’ve had another look at it. But I have agreed to look.”

What it does have is a golf course as good as any in the Open rotation, an adjacent course with plenty of open land and a motorway link directly to Belfast that would make last week’s gridlock at “Sandwich-ed” a distant memory.

What the R&A is really looking for is peace, which is in short supply in Ulster this time of year. And it’s not likely to simply materialize as long as the R&A refuses to make eye contact with the elephant in the Northern Irish room.

Evian Masters. The LPGA can name every event on its schedule a major for all we care, but that doesn’t change the reality that it is the players, not the media or fans or tour officials, who decide grand slam status.

On this the LPGA has history on its side. The du Maurier Classic was immediately considered a major when it was added to the fold in 1979 and remained there until it fell off the docket in 2000 and was replaced by the Women’s British Open.

There is, however, a sense of economic expediency that gives the Evian move a week-old cheese smell. The tour has been hit particularly hard by the global financial crisis, but doling out grand slam shingles to the highest bidder feels more like a finger in a dam than a long-term solution.

RBC Canadian Open. In the hyper-competitive world of PGA Tour events tournament directors and sponsors look for any edge to give them an advantage and although the Royal Bank of Canada didn’t break any PGA Tour rules landing this week’s field it certainly appears as if they are bending a few.

The banking giant – which took over sponsorship of the Canadian stop in 2008, and also signed on to sponsor the Hilton Head Island event earlier this year – has slowly signed a stable of high-profile players to lucrative endorsement contracts in recent years.

Among that group is current world No. 1 Luke Donald, Matt Kuchar, Ernie Els, and Anthony Kim. It’s no surprise then that the four-some made the long flight from England to the Pacific Northwest for this week’s event.

We’re not saying players like Els, who hadn’t played the Canadian Open since 1998, schlepped halfway around the world as a result of their endorsement deals with RBC, but if it quacks like an appearance fee it probably is.

Missed Cut

U.S. Golf Association. “Cut Line” is a proponent of any measure that will help speed up play, particularly for those groups that sneak out in front of our Saturday morning four-ball, but this week’s ruling at the U.S. Junior Amateur may be the wrong execution of the right idea.

Connor Klein didn’t have much time to celebrate his hole in one during Monday’s first round of stroke-play qualifying when he was informed by an official that all three players in his group would be penalized a stroke for slow play.

The group appealed the ruling and only Klein was penalized the stroke, which resulted in a birdie on the hole instead of an ace. It was the only penalty of the day for slow play.

There was a silver lining for Klein, who advanced to the match-play portion of the competition and likely spared himself from having to buy a round of milkshakes at the 19th hole to celebrate the ace.

Tiger Woods. There is no way to know exactly what transpired between Woods and Steve Williams, the details lost behind the cloak of Tiger Inc. Maybe the longtime looper overstepped with his moonlighting activities with Adam Scott, or perhaps it was a previous transgression that tipped the scales.

Although Woods’ release on Wednesday announcing the split made the move appear amiable, the New Zealander – who has caddied for an assortment of players to an estimated 120 worldwide victories – said he was “shocked and stunned.”

“After 13 years of loyal service needless to say this came as a shock. Given the circumstances of the past 18 months working through Tiger's scandal, a new coach and with it a major swing change and Tiger battling through injuries I am very disappointed to end our very successful partnership at this time,” Williams said.

Caddying is a tough business, but somehow it feels like Williams’ life just got a little easier.

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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

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

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

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

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