More on the Line Than a Major

By Rex HoggardAugust 15, 2010, 6:04 am
2010 PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Dr. Morris Pickens knows Ryder Cup pressure.

He’s had clients use the intensity of the biennial grudge match to reach new heights, and others who buckled under the smothering pressure of making the team. The diminutive southerner knows better than most the game’s most intense exhibition can be cathartic or crushing, which is why he stood behind Whistling Straits’ first tee late Saturday at the PGA Championship eyeing Nick Watney intently.

“I’m really interested to see what he does today,” Pickens said.

Watney, at 16th on the points list and something of a long-shot for a captain’s pick considering an empty cup resume, answered Pickens’ curiosity in waves, pacing a threesome that included one player who had been there before (Jim Furyk) and another who is easily headed there (Matt Kuchar).

Nick Watney
Nick Watney is searching for his first major championship victory. (Getty Images)

Watney birdied five of his first seven holes, one-putted seven of his first 11 holes and is three shots clear of the field after a warm, windy day.

Don’t want to say Watney scorched the faux links layout, but when he finally signed for his third-round 66 it was easy to imagine that somewhere Pete Dye was architecting more bunkers, more fescue, more everything for the lakeside gem.

A win will earn Watney a spot on Corey Pavin’s Ryder Cup squad when the deadline to qualify strikes midnight on Sunday. Another solid round should all but guarantee him a captain’s pick.

And why shouldn’t it?

The way things are shaping up for “Pavin’s project” a man nicknamed “Rube” because of his resemblance to the salt-of-the-earth “Major Leagues” character would be a perfect fit.

Watney has been here before. When the Presidents Cup came to Harding Park last year, the closest thing to a home game for the Sacramento native, he faded following an early-season victory at Torrey Pines, finished 14th on the points list and never got the call from captain Fred Couples.

It’s the type of baggage that makes Watney’s plight this week a study in compartmentalization, if not competitive blinders. But if Watney was feeling the Ryder Cup pressure it would have taken a Sodium Pentothal chaser to drag it out of him.

We spotted the affable northern Californian before his practice round on Tuesday and the conversation focused exclusively on his beloved San Francisco Giants.

“I think we peaked too early,” he smiled at the time.

Not that Watney is indifferent to the gnawing thoughts that people like Pickens get paid healthy sums to make go away.

“In a situation like this you have four options,” Pickens said. “You can play your emotion at the time, you can play the leaderboard, you can play the event and you can play for another day, like the Ryder Cup or rankings.

“(Watney) smiled at me when I told him that (and said), ‘I played all four of those last Sunday.”

Good stuff, particularly from a 29-year-old slow starter who attended a small college (Fresno State) and need two full years on Tour before he found his way and his first title (2007 Zurich Classic).

But then his “Rube” moniker doesn’t dovetail with the lengths to which Watney has gone this year to improve.

At AT&T National he picked up veteran caddie Chad Reynolds, who made his bones on Vijay Singh’s bag. He added Pickens to the team at the U.S. Open and has been trending in the right direction ever since with back-to-back ties for seventh at AT&T and the Open Championship.

“I have played pretty nice from (AT&T National) on. I didn't finish too well at the U.S. Open,” Watney said. “I felt like I was playing well, just making a few mistakes here and there and this week thus far I've kept it pretty tidy.”

For Pickens Watney’s PGA plight reminds him of another client who sweated out a last-minute spot on an American team. At the 2006 PGA Championship Zach Johnson began the week on the Ryder Cup bubble (10th), missed the cut but still made the team and used a solid week at the K Club to catapult himself to a Masters title.

First, however, Watney has to make the team, and deal with all the voices that brings.

“They know, intellectually, what they have to do, but it’s just hard to do what you’re supposed to do,” Pickens said.

This week Pavin said he would make his picks “from the gut” not based on points. Or maybe he meant he wanted gutsy picks. If that’s the case, Rube is your man.

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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