On the health front, Phil is 1 up on Tiger

By Rex HoggardFebruary 17, 2017, 12:58 am

LOS ANGELES – The juxtaposition was glaring.

A day after the 41-year-old who is fresh from multiple surgeries canceled a news conference because his doctors advised him it was best to remain horizontal, the 46-year-old who is recovering from two offseason surgeries electrified the crowd at Riviera Country Club with an opening 67.

For the latter, Phil Mickelson, his 4-under effort left him tied for fifth place on a cold and gloomy day; while the former, Tiger Woods, remained tethered to an undisclosed couch waiting for his back spasms to subside so he could plot his next move.

Comparisons between Woods and, well, anyone are always patently unfair. Fourteen majors has a way of ending all debates, and Lefty is loath to consider the gulf that currently separates this generation’s greatest players, although his reaction to the obvious comparisons was interesting.

“That's hard because it's not a fair comparison just because I'm five years older,” Mickelson said on Thursday at Riviera.

Interpret Mickelson’s take however you’d like, but the current landscape speaks for itself.

Mickelson, who had two surgeries this offseason to repair a sports hernia, is playing his fifth consecutive week and hasn’t missed a cut, finishing tied for 21st, 14th, 16th and 65th in his first four outings of 2017.

Conversely, Woods missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open, his first official PGA Tour start in 15 months, withdrew after just one round the next week in Dubai with back spasms and recently announced he wouldn’t be playing the Genesis Open, where he is the unofficial host, or next week’s Honda Classic because of ongoing back issues.

Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos

On Wednesday, Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg told The Associated Press that Woods' doctors “advised he just stay horizontal.” On Thursday, Mickelson was charging vertically up the leaderboard.

Two weeks ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open Mickelson was asked the source of his longevity and his answer was as detailed as it was damning for Woods.

“I think there are two things that [have] allowed me to elongate my career,” he explained. “One is I give a lot of credit to Sean Cochran and him staying up on new techniques, having our workouts be designed to be built around golf and elongating careers, so building the stabilizing muscles rather than building up just the big muscles.

“Secondly, the swing I have does not put a lot of pressure on my low back and spine and whatnot. It was built more around using the leverage and motion to create speed rather than a violent, brutal force while isolating a couple of joints.”

Mickelson never mentioned Woods, never used him as an example of what not to do or as a cautionary tale. He didn’t have to.

Woods’ training regimen is well documented and his intense workouts have been a point of concern for some within his inner circle for years.

“Tiger did two tandem parachute jumps, engaged in hand-to-hand combat exercises, went on four-mile runs wearing combat boots, and did drills in a wind tunnel,” his former swing coach Hank Haney wrote in the 2012 book "The Big Miss: My years coaching Tiger Woods." “Tiger loved it, but his physical therapist, Keith Kleven, went a little crazy worrying about the further damage Tiger might be doing to his left knee.”

Although there is no way to know for sure, that intense training, along with what was widely considered one of the game’s most explosive swings, is often blamed for Woods’ ongoing health issues.

All told, Tiger has had multiple surgeries on his left knee and three back procedures since April 2014, the latest coming in October 2015 to relieve discomfort.

Mickelson, however, has largely avoided the surgeon’s table. Other than a hip procedure early in his career, his bookend hernia operations are the extent of Lefty’s surgical records, and that’s by design.

“He’s been very diligent with his strength and conditioning program, and that program has been very specific in addressing the requirements of the golf swing,” said Cochran, who has been training Mickelson since 2003. “First and foremost is injury prevention.”

In 2010, Mickelson was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system misfires against its own joints and tendons. As a result, he dramatically adjusted his diet and intensified his training with Cochran.

That worked paid off this offseason when Mickelson was sidelined by surgery and recovery, a process he was unfamiliar with. But he embraced the plan if not the plodding nature that is such a part of rehabilitation.

“As with any athlete in any sport, you have to let the body have a proper amount of time to rest,” Cochran said. “It was a pitch count. You’re not coming out the first day after surgery and hitting drivers at full speed. It’s just not how you do it. You start with wedges and build up.”

Comparisons, particularly to Woods, are always unfair, and luck certainly plays a role when it comes to athletes and injury; but it was impossible to ignore the contrast between Lefty and Tiger on Day 1 in Los Angeles.

One was horizontal, the other was hungry for another round.

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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

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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

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Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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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