Day displays a son's devotion

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2017, 10:57 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – His head in his hands and tears streaming down his face, Jason Day did what his mother, Dening, taught him – carry on.

It wouldn’t be on the golf course, not this week. The defending champion at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play had just withdrawn after just six holes, but even Dening would understand his motivations.

Some 1,200 miles to the north in Columbus, Ohio, Dening was preparing for something that was much more important than golf – even golf at the highest level.

Overcome with emotion, Day explained that earlier this year Dening was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was, essentially, a death sentence, with doctors in Australia initially telling her the ailment was terminal.

But about week ago, Dening arrived in Columbus, Ohio, to undergo a battery of tests at the Ohio State University Medical Center and her outlook improved.

“The prognosis coming here wasn’t very positive. But now that she’s been here, they are more optimistic,” said Bud Martin, Day’s manager. “They feel like it’s something that hopefully, God willing, that it’s manageable.’

Dening is scheduled to have surgery on Friday and although Day arrived at Austin Country Club with the best of intentions, because that’s what Dening would want, six holes into his opening-day bout with Pat Perez the enormity of the moment caught up with him.

“It's really hard to even comprehend being on the golf course right now because of what she's gone through,” Day said. “She had a test done in Australia, and the doctor said she was terminal and only had 12 months to live. I'm glad I brought her over here. It's been really hard to play golf lately.”

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When Day’s father, Alvyn, died of stomach cancer when the would-be major champion and world No. 1 was just 12 years old, it was his mother, Dening, who pushed her son forward.

It was always Dening.

When Day fell in with the wrong crowd following his father’s death, it was Dening who worked two jobs to send the prodigy to a sport-specific school where he met Colin Swatton, who would become his swing coach, caddie, confidant and father figure.

“My mom took a second mortgage out on the house, borrowed money from my aunt and uncle, just to get me away from where I was to go to school, seven hours drive,” Day recalled after winning the 2015 PGA Championship, his first major triumph. “I mean we were poor.”

It was Dening who would cut the lawn with a knife because the family couldn't afford to fix the lawn mower. It was Dening who would heat up kettles of water for showers because the Day’s home didn’t have a hot-water tank.

Day’s truly remarkable story is often lost among his golf accomplishments, but his tale of perseverance is straight out of a Charles Dickens novel. He was always talented, incredibly driven and, eventually, lucky enough to cross paths with the likes of Swatton, but throughout it all it was Dening who was equal parts moral compass and motivational beacon.

Dening sacrificed so Day could attend Koralbyn International School in Queensland, and his desire to build a better life for Dening and his sisters drove him to be better, to be the best.

Some ascend to greatness driven by the desire for fame and fortune or the adrenaline rush of competition, but Day simply didn’t want to let Dening down. Not after everything that she’d done for him.

Throughout that less-than-ideal childhood, Dening always maintained a brave exterior. She had to for her children.

“I had to be tough,” she told the New York Times last spring.

So on Wednesday at the Match Play, Day walked away from the game, not because he wanted to quit – Dening would never allow that – but because he was tough enough to understand that something much more important was unfolding in Ohio.

Day didn’t take questions after his withdrawal. He probably wouldn’t have been able to contain his emotions had he tried. The Masters would be his next start, and Martin said he’s certain Day wants to play the first major but it depends on Dening’s health.

But even the Masters, which Day has made no secret is the tournament that means the most to him, doesn’t hold much appeal if Dening’s future is still uncertain.

“I just need some time away with her to make sure that everything goes well because this has been very, very tough for me,” Day said. “I'm going to do my best and try and be there the best I can for her because she is the reason that I'm playing golf today. And family is first.”

Martin spoke with Dening a few days ago and despite her own medical issues her matriarchal instincts remain as sharp as ever.

“The most important thing in her world is him playing golf and being happy,” Martin said. “I said, ‘I hear the news seems to be getting better. I want to make certain you are there during his Hall of Fame speech.’ She loves it.”

On Wednesday, it was the best of Dening that prompted Day to walk off the course, to be there for her, to carry on.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.