Energy, skill made Bradley Day 1 MVP

By Rex HoggardSeptember 29, 2012, 1:50 am

MEDINAH, Ill. – The kid from that golf powerhouse Vermont is all at once animated and antsy. He dances into and darts away from golf shots with what appears, at least to the untrained eye, a haphazard pre-shot routine that violates Sports Psychology 101.

In short, he makes coffee and, after a perfect day in this Chicagoland enclave, Europe’s best and brightest nervous.

But then Keegan Bradley has made a cottage industry out of defying convention, ascending to the game’s highest level following a humble start at St. John’s University. He won his first major – last year’s PGA Championship – in his first Grand Slam try; and on Friday rewrote another page of lore.

On a cool and raucous morning at Medinah he stepped to the first tee amid chants of “Major champion,” and laced a drive into the middle of the fairway that may still be rolling.

With his eyes ablaze he bolted down the fairway when playing partner Phil Mickelson draped a knowing arm over his shoulders. This, Lefty knew, was to be savored and he wanted to make sure his youthful thoroughbred didn’t miss a chill.

Less than 10 minutes later Bradley charged in a 20-footer at the second hole in the American duo’s Day 1 foursome match against Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia and never looked back.

Bradley and Mickelson would win that match handily, 4 and 3, ending a perfect partnership for the Europeans and the Spaniard’s perfect Ryder Cup foursome record.

Mickelson has been here before. In 2008 he took Anthony Kim under his wing and they went 1-1-1. But this was different. This was surreal as the rookie answered every challenge with even more zeal.

The “rookie” made a 6-footer for par at the fourth for a half, a 7-footer for birdie at the 10th to keep the match all square and hit his approach at the 13th to 18 feet to give the U.S. tandem a 2-up lead.

Jim McLean, Bradley’s south Florida-based swing coach, knew the second-year Tour player had the DNA to play the Ryder Cup but to dominate an event that regularly reduces grown men to tears, well, that was something else altogether.

“There’s a difference between being fearful and being nervous,” McLean figured. “And he lives for these big moments.”

That Bradley would walk in the winner from 25 feet at the 15th hole, and give the U.S. side its first points, was apropos. That U.S. captain Davis Love III had no problem marching his high-energy tandem back out in fourball play was also no surprise. That Bradley and Mickelson would win their first three holes in the matinee against Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, considered Europe’s first-line pairing, was deafening.

Bradley fist-pumped and rolled in every putt that mattered, 30,000 fans shook leaves off trees and the Europeans heard it all.

All told, Bradley and Mickelson won seven consecutive holes, the last four in their morning match and the first three in the second half of the doubleheader.

There was a theory this week that, like things used to be with Tiger Woods, an American victory over world No. 1 McIlroy would feel like a two-point swing. As Bradley and Mickelson rolled to a 4-up advantage before the turn it felt much more than that.

The Europeans rallied, cutting the lead to two holes with four to play, and the Americans answered in the form of a 7-iron from Lefty at the 17th that never left the flag. The crowd and Bradley went nuts.

“Oh baby, I wish I could go 36 (holes) more,” Bradley gushed, adrenaline coursing through his 6-foot-3 frame, when asked how he felt after his side’s 2-and-1 takedown of the Northern Irishmen that helped stake the United States to a 5-3 Day 1 advantage.

Bradley’s play on a fall Friday was inspiring, but it was his unbridled energy that sent the Medinah masses and, more importantly, Mickelson into a frenzy.

At this year’s U.S. Open Mickelson talked about needing to find the motivation to bring out his best. At Pebble Beach in the spring a Sunday pairing with Woods was the tonic. At Medinah it was the “Energizer Bradley.”

“There's a really simple reason why Keegan is perfect for the Ryder Cup,” said Mickelson, who has a regular Wednesday game with Bradley on Tour.

“It's because the more pressure the situation, the better he plays; the better he sees the shot; the better he focuses; and the better the result, and there's no more pressure situation, no higher pressure situation than the Ryder Cup.”

At the 15th hole late Friday afternoon in fourball play Bradley did a pirouette when his eagle putt slipped by the hole, and he chest-bumped Mickelson so hard during the morning game, Love may have been momentarily concerned for his safety.

He rolled in putts, pounded his chest, shouted and inspired a 42-year-old to play like it matters. You don’t hand out MVP awards after the first period, but at this pace the Man of the Match is the baby-faced Bradley.

Before McLean left Chicago this week he left a note in Bradley’s locker that read, in part, “draw energy from the crowd and don’t rush.”

At this pace it seems the only concern Bradley should have is that he may miss something in the beautiful blur. A guy that never slows down should remember, performances like this should be savored.

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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