2017 majors delivered for everyone but Fowler

By Rex HoggardAugust 16, 2017, 9:10 pm

If it seems like just yesterday you were heading down Magnolia Lane for the year’s first major, welcome to the club.

With Justin Thomas’ Sunday charge at Quail Hollow, the Grand Slam season came to a dramatic close, four months after Sergio Garcia got things underway at the Masters. For those who say professional golf has no offseason, consider that the next major golf shot won’t be hit for 231 days. How’s that for dramatic pause?

There were a few themes to this year’s major championships, with three of the four being won by first-time major winners and two stops defined by ridiculously low scoring.

Charley Hoffman got the season underway on Thursday at Augusta National, his 65 the best round of the day by four strokes and nearly 10 shots better than the Day 1 field average (74.97).

Rickie Fowler did what Rickie Fowler does at majors, moving into a share of the lead through 54 holes only to fade on Sunday (we’ll circle back around to Fowler in a moment), and Garcia doing what few that he could – win a major.

Perhaps Sunday’s final round at the Masters wasn’t exactly what we’ve come to expect from the year’s first major, with Garcia and Justin Rose battling to a standoff with closing nines of 35, but it was entertaining nonetheless and the Englishman gave one of the game’s classiest interviews in defeat.

“It was a wonderful battle with Sergio, you can’t feel bad for me. If there was anyone to lose to it was Sergio. He deserves it,” Rose said.

But what the Masters may have lacked in Sunday firepower, the U.S. Open filled the void.

One of two first-time major venues this season, conventional wisdom suggested Erin Hills, a behemoth at 7,740 yards, would be a typical U.S. Open grind. That unease was only fueled when officials made an 11th-hour decision to mow down some of the layout’s rough before play started.

What transpired on the course, however, was something entirely different.

Fowler (remember him?) once again got off to a dream start with a first-round 65, one of 44 scores under par at the Bob Hope Classic U.S. Open on Day 1. On Saturday, Thomas set a championship record in relation to par with his 9-under 63 and Johnny Miller, whose 8-under 63 in ’73 had been the U.S. Open scoring standard, wasn’t exactly impressed.

“Taking nothing away from 9 under par – 9 under is incredible with U.S. Open pressure,” Miller told GolfChannel.com. “But it isn’t a U.S. Open course that I’m familiar with the way it was set up . . . It looks like a PGA Tour event course set up.”

That Brooks Koepka would finish at a record-tying 16 under for his first major victory did nothing to counter Miller’s argument - that the combination of no wind and a soft course had turned Erin Hills into a major pushover - but Thomas would have the final word before the Grand Slam season was over.

Perhaps there was some solace for the USGA that the scoring assault continued at Royal Birkdale in July when Branden Grace made more history, becoming the first player to shoot 62 in a major on Saturday, not that the South African knew of his accomplishment until he’d putted out.

“Let's get this out of the way: I didn't know what was going on on 18. I promise you,” Grace smiled. “[Caddie Zack Rasego] came up and said, ‘You're in the history books.’ And I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’”

But if ignorance was bliss for Grace on Saturday, Jordan Spieth knew exactly what was going on during the final round when his tee shot at the 13th hole sailed into a dune right of the fairway.

More than 20 minutes later, after taking an unplayable lie and a drop on Birkdale’s practice tee, Spieth completed a scrambling bogey that the late Seve Ballesteros would have been proud of.

Spieth later admitted that he’d hit drives much farther off line in his career, but none were as eventful on his way to the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

“We are going to skip the first 12 holes, right?” joked Spieth when asked about his round, which included three birdies and an eagle following his adventure on No. 13.

In a twist to the Grand Slam status quo, the PGA Championship proved to be the year’s toughest major, with the year’s lowest winning total (8 under) and the season’s toughest course on the PGA Tour by more than a half stroke.

That it was Thomas, who emerged from a crowded leaderboard late on Sunday afternoon, holding the Wanamaker Trophy only seemed apropos (perhaps there should have been some sort of tweet directed at Miller, maybe next time).

It should also be noted that Fowler finished tied for fifth at the PGA despite a Saturday 73, and with 231 days until the next major, the title of "best player without one" rests squarely on his shoulders.

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

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.