Q-School Mercifully Comes to a Close

By Rex HoggardDecember 7, 2010, 2:37 am
PGA Tour

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – Adding insult to infinite injury Mother Nature piled on the assembled masses on Monday at PGA Tour Q-School.

A bitterly cold joke, or an apropos conclusion to the game’s most punishing marathon. You decide. Either way 40 degrees and 30 mph gusts are no way to make a living, particularly when you’re trying to make a living.

“It’s a lot like a root canal, it just takes longer,” said Gary Woodland, who joined a class of 29 that will advance to the PGA Tour in 2011.

Woodland should know he underwent a real root canal on Tuesday afternoon before embarking on professional golf’s version of the procedure. He’s also dealt with more than his share of pain in a short and injury-plagued career.

In August 2009 the hard-swinging former basketball player had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and now admits he returned to golf too soon in an attempt to take advantage of friendly courses. As a result he failed to convert his eight medical exemption starts into a Tour card. All of which made this week’s performance at Orange County National that much more special.

The pain, Woodland explained while bracing himself against a frigid breeze, is most acute when it’s cold.

“The U.S. Open was really cold and I was first out and it hurt,” said Woodland, who finished at 12 under to tie for 11th, six strokes behind medalist Billy Mayfair. “But now it feels fine. It took me almost a year to start feeling healthy again.”

Not to split hairs, but “healthy” for Woodland is a relative concept. The former college point guard has always played hurt, it’s what you do. “But this game is different,” he admits only half begrudgingly.

“Healthy” for Woodland is swinging at about 70 percent said his swing coach Randy Smith. That Orange County National’s twin courses are a bomber’s paradise, the likes of J.B. Holmes and Dustin Johnson qualified here in the past, gives an indication of how long Woodland is even at 70 percent.

Not that Smith was going to allow him to be any more aggressive than that.

“I told him the Superman cape stays in the bag until he reads the instruction manual,” Smith joked.

But then not even Superman could have fared better at Q-School. The fall classic is the professional equivalent of Kyptonite for aspiring Tour types. Swings feel different, nerves react strangely and putts rarely drop when you need them to.

As Monday’s sixth round inched toward a chilly conclusion the week’s winners and losers had strangely similar appearances.

“A little more than a year ago I was at my worst,” said Brazil’s Alexandre Rocha, who finished at 10 under to secure his first trip to the Tour. “Technique-wise I was completely lost and my mental approach was an absolute disaster.”

Now he’s a Tour member. Rocha is fluent in five languages, but his long-awaited exhale was universally understood.

A stroke behind Rocha was Scott Gordon who appeared poised on the number at 10 under par when he missed a 3-footer for par at the last. Shell-shocked, Gordon stood outside the scoring trailer for 10 minutes nervously checking his iPhone.

“I felt like I did a really good job of keeping my emotions in check, but that closing stretch is tough,” said Gordon, who tied with three others at 9 under to secure the final Tour cards.

Young Kyle Stanley couldn’t say the same. After a sloppy bogey at Crooked Cat’s eighth hole, Stanley launched his drive to 20 feet for eagle at the par-4 ninth and cruised the rest of the way to a 4-under 68 and a Tour card.

“It means so much,” said Stanley as he struggled with his emotions. “It was tough to keep from crying out there today.”

Q-School will do that, although the jagged emotional edges have been dulled over time by a system riddled with loopholes. There was a time when the top 25 and ties celebrated on Monday and the rest of the field started working on alternative revenue streams for the coming year.

But now thanks to partial Tour status (Nos. 126-150 on the 2010 money list could play between 15 to 20 events next year on Tour) and the Nationwide Tour the abyss that once defined Q-School resembles more of a rolling hill, with varying degrees of disaster.

But the shades of grey that regulate Tour status don’t make the 108-hole slog any easier. As the final groups made their way up the closing holes one Tour official observed flatly, “I hate this week.”

Jarrod Lyle, back on Tour following a closing 4-under 68 to finish in fifth place, provided a collective epitaph to a tournament made even more demanding by Mother Nature, “I’m so bloody glad it’s over.”

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.