A serene scene on Sunday before the Masters

By Rex HoggardApril 7, 2013, 5:33 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – To be clear, Sunday is a “member’s day” at Augusta National. Preparations are underway, players – even the press, albeit with limited access – are allowed on property, but for one final day the Masters can wait.

It is a distinction which explained the serene scene surrounding the first tee just before the lunch hour on Sunday.

On an eerily peaceful spring day, Trevor Immelman set out for a round with George Lopez. Yep, that George Lopez with the 2008 champion, followed by 14-year-old Chinese phenom Tianlang Guan, who shyly slipped onto the first tee and waited for an approving nod to tee off.

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One half expected to see a colloquial “golf ball tube” adjacent to the first tee to keep order and track the comings and goings of groups, but the teen played away (observation: judging by Guan’s drive, he is not as short off the tee as advertised) and the parade continued.

Charles Coody slipped in behind Guan, hitting his drive about halfway up the hill at the first hole and prompting Fuzzy Zoeller to playfully bark from the adjacent ninth green, “Charlie, you need to move up (a tee).”

It is all part of the meandering pace that will soon be shattered by the monsoon of the year’s first major. There is no tee sheet, just members mixed amid major championship hopefuls – the acme of surreal in perfect symphony with the status quo.

Nothing has changed at Augusta National. The grass is still green – the Sunday before the Masters is as green as it gets, in fact – the azaleas are in bloom and Magnolia Lane beckons. But on the Sunday before there is a rare sense of the unknown.

This much is certain: seven days from now there will be roars – always are. But on this Sunday one group was more surprising than the next.

There was defending champion Bubba Watson setting out with his wife, Angie. Asked if she was scared, Mrs. Defending Champion offered a serious “very.”

Next up was '07 champion Zach Johnson playing with his caddie Damon Green, an accomplished player who nonetheless looked strangely out of place in something other than his signature white overalls.

Or maybe it was the sight of three-time champion Phil Mickelson heading out with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice, one of two female members admitted to the club since last year’s Masters, was steady off the first tee and found the fairway. Not bad considering the circumstances.

What wasn’t surprising was the endless parade of players and past champions who show up each year on the Sunday before the Masters. With apologies to, well . . . every other event in golf, that doesn’t happen anywhere else.

The golf course hasn’t changed, at least not fundamentally. This isn’t about practice, this is about the game’s ultimate playground and a rare chance to have one’s fill.

Charlie Epps, 2009 champion Angel Cabrera’s swing coach, has been coming to the Masters since 1979. As he wandered down the first fairway on Sunday your scribe asked him if Augusta National ever changes?

“Oh yeah,” he smiled brightly. “It’s just getting better, like Disneyland for adults.”

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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.

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Green jacket tour

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Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

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Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

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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