Putting is focus of Woods' Round 1

By Rex HoggardApril 11, 2013, 10:22 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – What started out to be a new day at Augusta National for Tiger Woods – complete with an updated Nike 3-wood (Covert) and girlfriend (Lindsey Vonn) – ended with familiar frustration, if not for the world No. 1 then for the Masters masses who trailed his every move on Thursday.

They don’t dole out green jackets on Thursday at the former fruit nursery, and if historical context is any measure Woods’ opening-round 70 is perfectly on pace for another big Sunday, but the Achilles’ heel that has stymied the four-time Masters champion for seven years cropped up again in Round 1.

“I was there ball-striking-wise a few years through that stretch where I think I hit it pretty well. Hit a lot of greens, but just didn't make enough putts,” Woods said Tuesday. “I was there on Sundays with a chance, and unfortunately just didn't get it done. But as we all know, you have to putt well here. You have to make a lot of putts.”

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On Thursday following an overcast opening effort one could almost hear those words echoing through the iconic pines.

While he was near the top of the field in greens in regulation (13 of 18) and fairways hit (9 of 14), his 30 putts left him squarely in the middle of the pack and four strokes adrift of the pace set early Thursday by unfamiliar front man Marc Leishman.

In short, Woods chalked his pedestrian putting day up to poor pace, and considering some of the putts he left himself late in the day his ability to avoid a three-putt is a victory by any measure.

“It was a good day on the greens which were a little tough,” Woods said. “They didn’t seem to have that sheen to them, that roll-out, that they normally do.”

No course in golf goes from 0 to 60 as quickly as Augusta National, and Woods was not alone in pointing out that green speeds seemed slower on Day 1 in relation to how they ran earlier in the week.

If his tie for 13th after Round 1 wasn’t exactly what the people expected from the consensus favorite consider that in Woods’ four victory laps at Augusta National he’s opened with a 2-under 70 on three occasions. The exception? An opening 74 in 2005, the last time he slipped into the green jacket.

“It was benign starting out, but the wind picked up in the middle of the round, swirling like usual at Amen Corner, but I was very pleased,” he said. “I lag-putted very well today.”

It seems apropos that the highlight of Woods’ round came at the 13th hole when he deftly cozied a 50-foot eagle attempt with 20 feet of break to birdie range; while rock bottom may well have been a missed 10-footer for par at the 14th and a 7-footer for birdie after missing the 15th green in the wrong spot.

Although Woods remained upbeat with girlfriend Vonn looking on, the episode felt like he’d turned a 66 into a 70, the culprit a pace-of-play problem that had nothing to do with five-hour rounds.

If the ghosts of Masters misses past were haunting Woods – he’s ranked inside the top 10 in putting for the week just once over his seven-year swoon at Augusta National – he wasn’t letting on. There was no marathon session on the putting green after his round, no “S” light sent high into the Georgia sky to beckon pro bono putting coach Steve Stricker for a quick fix.

It was interesting that Jack Nicklaus, who owns the benchmark for success at Augusta National (six green jackets) and in the Grand Slam count (18), revealed on Thursday that Woods has never really asked him about playing the Masters.

“He’s got his own focus and what he does, and I respect that. I respect when somebody is involved in their deal,” Nicklaus said.

Put another way, there was never really any need. Woods won the first Masters he played as a professional and three of his first six starts.

For all the focus on Woods’ seven-year itch at Augusta National and his inability to convert the clutch putts on command in recent years, he knows as well as anyone that at this juncture it is about the challenge, not the championship. There was nothing new about that.

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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.

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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.

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

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