The Old Fashioned Way
“Nearly half the field can qualify for an Open, that’s not on paper but it is damn near written in stone,” Fay said.
On Monday in central Ohio the sometimes pampered and privileged proved Fay’s point, playing 36 holes under warm skies for one of 15 spots next week at Pebble Beach. Eric Axley punched his ticket, shooting rounds of 64-63 to take medalist honors by a touchdown. Bo Van Pelt, perhaps the most consistent player on Tour this spring, will also make the trip, finishing tied for fourth.
Further punctuating Fay’s point was the play of Justin Rose, a first-time PGA Tour winning on Sunday up the road at Muirfield Village, who carded rounds of 68-72 and will miss the year’s second major. Rickie Fowler, who succumbed to Rose after holding the lead at the Memorial Tournament for the better part of 65 holes, also struggled on Monday (70-73) and will not play the Pebble Beach Open.
Between the fortunate and the fatigued, however, was the ultimate afterthought. Aaron Baddeley has been a Tour staple since 2003, a two-time winner in 2006 and ’07 and considered one of the best putters of his generation.
But somewhere along the way Baddeley lost his way, bolting his long-time swing coach for the stack-and-tilt method that came into fashion a few years ago. Last year just after the WGC-CA Championship the Australian ended the experiment and returned to Dale Lynch, who he had worked with since he was a 13 year old prodigy.
“I had some success with stack-and-tilt but I felt I was working hard and not getting the results I wanted,” Baddeley said early Monday at Brookside Golf & Country Club. “I wanted to get back to who I was before, more of a feel player. Seeing the shot.”
Baddeley’s progress has been steady, if not slower than he would have liked, but rounds of 69-67 on Monday left him tied for 10th place and bound for Pebble Beach.
The biggest improvement for Baddeley has been a dramatic jump in how far he hits the ball. Lynch said Baddeley’s technique began to fall into place during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am earlier this year so his statistics don’t paint a complete picture, but he has still jumped from 92nd on Tour last year with a 287-yard average to 13th this season (293 yards).
“I’m 30 to 40 yards further (with his driver),” said Baddeley, who missed the cut at the 2000 Open at Pebble Beach, “When I started hitting it longer it was laughable how far it was going.”
Since last spring when Baddeley reunited with Lynch he has three top-10 finishes, most recently tied for third at the Valero Texas Open, has improved in nearly every major statistical category and, according to Lynch, he’s only recently started trusting his swing in competition.
“Everything we looked at was long-term which was very brave. He was willing to forego shot-term stuff,” Lynch said. “Six weeks ago his technique was great, but the next step was the mental hurdle of trusting the new swing. He’s there now.”
He’s also in the U.S. Open, earning his spot the old-fashion way. Fay would like that.
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
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."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
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.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“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
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.
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.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18