Day still in search of that No. 1 magic

By Rex HoggardMarch 16, 2017, 8:14 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – When Jason Day arrived at Bay Hill to play last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, he was fielding a predictable set of questions.

What’s the state of your game?

How close are you?

Are you trending in the right direction?

It’s no real surprise that he’s heard many of the same questions this week following a similar start to his year. Before Bay Hill in 2016, the Australian had finished T-10, missed cut, T-11 and T-23. This year his road to Arnie’s place is virtually identical, with a T-12, missed cut, T-5 and T-64.

If you follow trends, you’d think Day could take some solace from those similar paths to Bay Hill, but you would be wrong.

“I came off a season [2015] that I won five times, I won a major championship, two wins in the playoffs,” he reasoned on Thursday after an opening 70 lifted him into a tie for second place. “I came here [this year] and I would say that I just don't quite have enough confidence in my swing right now.”

He went on to explain that his putting is close but not quite there either, and that he’s doing all the same things he did last year, and the years before that, but he’s still missing that crucial element that’s needed to separate himself from the rest of the field.

“I can tell you that I'm trying my best. Some years are going to be great and some years are going to be down and unfortunately that's just how it goes,” shrugged Day, who is all too aware that confusing results for the process can be an extremely dangerous slope.

Although Day’s health is always a point of concern, consider that in recent months he missed the 2016 Tour Championship (back injury) and the ’17 WGC-Mexico Championship (flu and double ear infection), his dedication and desire is beyond reproach. He’s driven to win, like most world-class players, but unlike many of his A-list frat brothers he’s also keen to reclaim the top spot in the World Golf Ranking that Dustin Johnson took from him last month.

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

“Dustin is playing tremendous golf, Jordan [Spieth] is playing good golf, Rory [McIlroy] is obviously back from injury, so there's a ton of good golfers that are trying to get back to that spot and I'm trying to do the same,” Day said. “I just have to try and do my best to forget about what has happened in the past and just try and keep moving forward and do my best and get the process right.”

Day can’t overtake Johnson in the world math this week, but he can certainly make things more interesting next week at the WGC-Dell Match Play with another big week in central Florida. But then that wouldn’t be part of the process.

It may appear as if he’s at a similar crossroads this year at Bay Hill, but his outlook is distinctly subdued. Remember, after winning last year’s API, his first PGA Tour victory in Florida, he won his next start at the WGC-Match Play and The Players a month later. It was what we’ve come to expect from the 29-year-old, at least when he’s healthy.

His health may be contributing to his measured outlook on Day 1 at Bay Hill. Asked how his back was feeling, he joked, “I have the back of a 70-year-old.” But after teeing off early in blustery cold conditions the joke didn’t seem to cheer him up.

The nostalgia of this week may also be adding to his outlook. On Wednesday, Day spoke at length about winning last year’s stop at Bay Hill and his place in the record books following the passing of Arnold Palmer in September.

“Having the celebratory drink with him after the win last year, no one else gets to do that anymore and it's unfortunate, it's sad, but that is something that I'll hold very, very special in my heart, because I was the last guy to do it,” said Day, who led wire-to-wire last year at Bay Hill on his way to a one-stroke victory.

The similarities aside, the relatively identical records heading into the final Florida swing stop, the monotony of questions focused on all the familiar areas of interests – his health, his game, his focus – for Day it seems this year at Bay Hill simply feels different.

Not better or worse, just different.

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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