Nightmare Scenario

By Rex HoggardAugust 18, 2010, 10:31 pm

“If you need someone to blame throw a rock in the air, you’ll hit someone guilty.”


In the hectic hours following Dustin Johnson’s major miscue at Whistling Straits, the media searched doggedly for a scapegoat while the PGA of America likely strained a rib muscle trying to find a fix for an utterly unfixable situation.

Neither party was successful.

The blame game started with David Price, the walking scorer with Johnson’s group on Sunday who was strangely absent from the proceedings considering the gravity of the situation and the looming possibility that one of Whistling Straits’ 1,200 or so bunkers would mar an otherwise memorable championship.

“You’ve got to say something to him,” said Jim Duncan, a veteran PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour rules official. “If I was a walking official I would have said on the first tee, guys please use caution and ask me.”

Not that Duncan has any interest in Monday morning officiating. Far from it, in fact he calls Price one of the best rules officials in the business. Duncan’s observation is more of a warning than a judgment.

Those who want to criticize Price or the PGA are oversimplifying, or worse overanalyzing.

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Dustin Johnson hits what turned out to be his fourth shot on the 72nd hole at the PGA Championship. (Getty Images)
“Of course I would have said something,” said Mike Davis, the U.S. Golf Association’s senior director of rules and competitions. “But a lot of times I would have been up trying to clear the crowds, you can’t always be there. It’s like a nightmare scenario. None of this is good for the Rules of Golf.”

Those who say the fix is simple – just make anything inside the ropes a hazard, as defined by the Rules of Golf, and everything outside a waste area – have not spent enough time studying the rule book.

“We did everything the PGA did (for the 2007 U.S. Senior Open at Whistling Straits),” said Davis, who met with his PGA counterpart Kerry Haigh before the 2004 PGA at Whistling Straits and agreed that all 1,200 of Pete Dye’s pits should be played as hazards. “Every bunker was treated as a bunker, as it should be.”

The inside/outside the ropes delineation won’t work for numerous reasons. What if a rope line crosses through a bunker? Or if a rope is moved before a player gets to his golf ball? In Rules of Golf speak this would be considered a “broken arrow” option, unquantifiable and unworkable.

“You are opening a can of worms doing something other than what they did this year,” Duncan said.

Ultimately, it was Johnson who made the mistake, however innocently, and to his youthful credit he never tried to water that reality down. But that does little to assure this doesn’t happen in 2015 when the PGA Championship returns to the converted Wisconsin pasture.

The blame game may soothe our manic souls and calm a collective nausea, but is a blatant waste of energy. This is not a Dustin Johnson problem or a Rules of Golf problem or a PGA of America problem.

If you want to blame someone go after Pete Dye, the architectural sadist in grandfather’s clothing. He created the faux links land, with the blessing of golf Herb Kohler, and all those sandy blemishes on an otherwise enchanting seascape.

They have towering dunes on Ireland’s greatest golf courses, they just don’t dot them with ornamental and problem-causing bunkers. Nor do they pack them with 40,000 fans during a major championship.

But then even Dye gets a partial pass considering that Whistling Straits is not entirely unique in its propensity for sandy question marks. Duncan pointed out that Kiawah Island in South Carolina – site of the 2012 PGA and another Dye design, by the way – is canvassed with bunkers that are even less defined than those at Whistling Straits.

When we reached Davis on Wednesday he was preparing for next week’s U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., the site of the 2015 U.S. Open.

“We have an even more complicated issue with all the sand,” said Davis, who was watching Sunday’s PGA and nearly texted Haigh when he saw the infraction. “We have these sandy areas that just sort of transition to bunkers.”

There are, essentially, only two ways to be sure Johnson the proper noun doesn’t become Johnson a verb – as in he Johnson’ed his second shot and lost the tournament: Remove Whistling  Straits from the major rota, which would get our vote, or let grass grow over all those largely ornamental sand pits that simply welcome this kind of confusion.

“This is not a Rules of Golf issue, it is an issue that deals with the architecture of Whistling Straits,” Davis said. “It’s just a very unique golf course that when you put it under big tournament conditions it is a very demanding situation.”

On Sunday amid the muted celebration of Martin Kaymer’s celebration neither Kohler nor Dye had any interest in cleaning up the sandy clutter that led to heartbreak for Johnson and heartache for the PGA of America.

“It’s what should have happened,” Kohler said.

A few days before the PGA Championship we had a chance to speak with Kohler about the evolution of his lakeside gem and reflect on the ’04 championship. One comment, given Sunday’s drama, drove us back to the notebook.

“(Haigh’s) comfort level grew dramatically from the first day to the last day in 2004,” Kohler said.

We have to wonder, how comfortable is Haigh now?

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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