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It all comes down to Casey

By Rex HoggardSeptember 24, 2017, 12:28 am

ATLANTA – Fate can be cruel or fate can be liberating.

On Sunday at the Tour Championship, Paul Casey gets to find out which side of the cosmic tumblers awaits.

The endearing Englishman overcame a few early miscues on Saturday at steamy East Lake to maintain his spot atop the field at the finale. He’s 12 under par, two shots clear of Kevin Kisner and rookie Xander Schauffele and once again perched on the precipice between good and great.

Casey’s title drought now stretches some eight years, back to the 2009 Shell Houston Open when he seemed invincible and was bound for the top 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

But along the way there were injuries and a nasty divorce and too many near misses to count; and that he’s wrested himself out of the competitive badlands and to within 18 holes of the game’s ultimate double-header – a chance to win both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup – is something of a mixed blessing.

Sure, he’s happier, both on and off the golf course.

“It's pretty good,” Casey figured. “It would be nicer if I was at home with my daughter and my son and my wife, but I love doing what I do so yeah, it's great.”

That kind of inner peace may make it easier to endure professional adversity, but it does little to temper a player who was and remains a fierce competitor.

For Casey, it’s an $11.5 million question with only a single acceptable answer, but an answer that has eluded him for some time.


Tour Championship: Articles, video and photos

Current FedExCup Playoff points standings


He nods knowingly when he hears the familiar statistics. Casey leads the Tour this year with a 68.77 scoring average on Day 1, but drifts as the weekend approaches and plummets all the way to 67th in final-round scoring (70.33).

“Yeah, too much pressure,” Casey said. “It's better to be in this position. But the scoring average is still the scoring average. Why is it wrong? I don't know.”

Casey is quick to point out that he closed with a 64 last year at East Lake on his way to a fourth-place finish, but he did begin the 2016 final round some five strokes off the lead, not exactly a pressure-packed scenario considering the circumstances.

The more relevant examples are also the ones that are still fresh. Casey began his playoff run this season at The Northern Trust with three solid rounds and was tied for third and three strokes back through 54 holes. On Sunday he hit 6 of 14 fairways and took 30 putts on his way to a closing 71.

A week later at the Dell Technologies Championship, he again began the last lap in third place, this time just a stroke back. On Sunday, he again needed 30 putts on his way to a final-round 70 to finish tied for fourth.

To put it another way, Sunday hasn’t exactly been funday for Casey.

When he was asked about his suspect Sunday performances earlier this week, Casey admitted he and his caddie Johnny “Long Sock” McLaren have discussed it, but he offered no real answers.

Following his round on Day 3, he offered a more detailed glimpse into what might be behind his final-round troubles.

“We've got to do more to get myself into a position going into Sunday because being two or three back is not good enough because it seems like everybody you're going up against, Hideki [Matsuyama], Dustin [Johnson], Jordan [Spieth], [Justin Thomas], they're two ahead and they crack on and shoot 65, 64, 63,” Casey said. “Unbeatable.”

Having a cushion will help, no doubt. Having a solid history at East Lake - he’s never finished outside the top 5 in his three previous starts at the finale - is a boost. Having two players with a combined two PGA Tour titles being your primary opponents could also factor into the outcome.

When Schauffele, who won The Greenbrier Classic, has had a stellar first year on Tour and moved into the hunt with a third-round 65, was asked where the Tour Championship ranked on his pre-season goals list, his answer was telling.

“Somewhere up in the clouds, to be honest,” he laughed. “That was definitely not what I was thinking about even a few months ago, so to be out here is surreal.”

While Kisner, who won his second Tour title earlier this year at Colonial, is considered one of the game’s most dogged competitors and is poised to be next week’s standout newcomer for the U.S. Presidents Cup team, his history at East Lake isn’t exactly stellar and he may be a tad distracted after taking a helicopter to Athens, Ga., on Saturday after his round to watch his beloved Georgia Bulldogs play Mississippi State.

The next closest players are five strokes back, although Justin Thomas, who struggled on Day 3 to an even-par 70, could make things interesting for the season-long race and is currently projected second on the points and is in a tie for fourth place at 7 under.

Since the dawn of the FedExCup playoffs, the Tour Championship has a history of serving up nuanced and varied storylines through to the final putt. But on Sunday it’s just a single tale that awaits, and that’s which side of fate looms for Casey.

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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