Driver lifts Lefty, putter brings him down in Rd. 1

By Rex HoggardJune 12, 2014, 8:04 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – This isn’t a normal week. It was never going to be.

Phil Mickelson said as much with his body language and his preparation and his outspoken assessment regarding everything that is on the line at the 114th U.S. Open.

He’s owned the reality of the situation with confident abandon that this Open, this Pinehurst Open, would be the crowning achievement of what is already a Hall of Fame career.

It would give Lefty a career Grand Slam and end more than two decades of trail and largely failure in his national championship. And it would bring his legacy full circle, back to the moment he finished runner-up to the late Payne Stewart at the 1999 Open for the first of six near misses.

In quintessential Phil style he hasn’t tried to make this Open anything less.

“This is a special week. This is a special tournament, a tournament that means a lot to me,” he said on Thursday.

In word and deed Mickelson has embraced this week with a once-in-a-lifetime focus.

He spent four hours on a sweltering Wednesday afternoon working on his game, particularly his putting, and following an even-par 70 to start his week he bolted for the practice putting green for more field work before he even spoke to the media.

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On Wednesday, Mickelson figured that the retro No. 2 course was a perfect fit for him, with acres of rough replaced by waste areas that are dotted with love grass and enough humps and bumps to send a mountain goat searching for a Dramamine fix.

Lefty figured, as only he can, that in a chipping contest he liked his chances.

But the 43-year-old failed his first Donald Ross exam at the 15th hole, his sixth hole of the day, when his tee shot sailed long and, faced with about a billion options, he chipped through the green and made the first of three bogeys.

From tee to green on Day 1 Mickelson proved up to the historical task, hitting nine of 14 fairways – impressive primarily because of his aggressive approach with the driver this week – and 13 of 18 greens in regulation.

“This golf course is a course where I get a similar feeling that I get at Augusta where I don't have to be perfect,” Mickelson said.

“I can miss shots. I can miss greens and still get up and down. I always have a chance. There's not the hack-it-out-rough. It is challenging. There are difficult shots, but they're manageable and hittable if you pull them off.”

His putting, however, remains suspect, which prompted his post-round rap session on Pinehurst’s crusty practice green.

“I've got to make some 15-, 20-footers, the ones that can go either way, to shoot a good enough number here,” he said. “There's not enough pins that you can go at and send that 20-footer up the hill. I've got to make some of those. I didn't make any today, but I'm going to keep working on it.”

Mickelson huddled with putting coach Dave Stockton Sr. early Tuesday in search of answers, reverted to a modified claw grip and spent much of Wednesday afternoon rolling in one-handed 5-footers.

“I told him, ‘You’re playing the British Open this week. I don’t think you can hammer anything,’” Stockton said. “You’ve got to have the touch.”

He may also need a little patience, which will be hard to come by considering the scope of this week’s championship.

Although Lefty still has a handful of U.S. Open opportunities ahead of him, there is no denying that he is much closer to the end of his storied career than the beginning.

It’s probably why he has chosen to embrace this mountain instead of plugging his head into one of Pinehurst’s ubiquitous sandy natural areas.

“I don't know if it will be this week or next year or the year after,” he said. “I do still have 100 percent confidence that I'll be able to break through and get one.”

On that cool, wet Father’s Day 15 years ago, Stewart took Mickelson’s face into his hands on the 72nd hole and offered the only solace he could think of: “You’re going to be a father. You’ll have plenty of chances to win (the Open).”

In many ways returning to Pinehurst is a vivid reminder that those chances are dwindling and that he must make the most of what remains, because pressure he can deal with, but failure is unacceptable.

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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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Green jacket 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

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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