Standing Up to the Island Green

By Rex HoggardSeptember 29, 2010, 3:30 am

National ChampionshipPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The scariest pitching wedge in the game took a PR hit Tuesday under ashen September skies. In fact, Pete Dye’s 145 yards of watery woe looked downright warm and fuzzy by the time the “Palmer Flight” at the Golf Channel Am Tour’s National Championship was finished.

Your correspondent has watched hardened PGA Tour players blink at the worst possible moment because of an ill-timed gust of wind and a golf hole with more street cred than Snoop Dogg.

In 2007 it was Sean O’Hair. You know him, the Presidents Cup hero and three-time Tour winner who pulled the wrong club on a spring Sunday three years ago and can still hear the splash.

Or Paul Goydos, one of this year’s “59” twins who charmed “Dirtbag” nation in 2008 only to get blown out of a playoff and into Dye’s drainage ditch. Each Wednesday during Players week a parade of Tour caddies take a hack for charity and chuckles and more often than not they’re swimming.

Legend has it the island 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course was actually the brainchild of Dye’s wife, Alice. But, for the likes of O’Hair and Goydos, it’s a tad late to start looking for someone to blame.

With history on our side we camped adjacent “Davey Dye’s Locker” Tuesday morning and waited for carnage and cruelty and more cringe moments than a liquid lunch with Larry David.

What chance did the 111 players of the National Championship’s “Palmer Flight” for handicaps between 4 and 7.9 have on Dye’s deathtrap, which has been known to stir Tour types from a deep sleep?

Yet as morning rain turned to afternoon muggy the lunatic luster of the 17th began to muddy like the waters surrounding the island green.

First there was Tony Scheuerman from Lake Elmo, Minn. An 8-iron to 5 feet for birdie. What’s the big deal?

“I enjoyed it more than I thought I would,” said Scheuerman as he nursed a Michelob Ultra in the palatial TPC clubhouse and enjoyed his week in north Florida, a birthday present from his wife, Zina.

In fact, forget Scheuerman’s third-round 84, he played the Stadium’s fearsome final three in 2 under par – birdie at the par-5 16th hole, birdie at the 17th and an All-Seve up-and-down from 86 yards at the last for par.

Next up was Jon Vanpoucke, who caught a piece of the cup with his pitching wedge tee shot that rolled to less than a foot for a tap in-2.

“Pitching wedge is my money club,” Vanpoucke said. “That green doesn’t scare me one bit.”

Somewhere Dye just spit out a mouthful of lemonade or angrily started diagramming more scruffy bunkers for Whistling Straits. Either way that is one sentence you will never hear in the spring at The Players.

To be fair the Stadium was playing more like it did at the March Players than it does at the May Players, that is to say soft and spongy, and Tuesday’s pin position at the 17th hole was six paces on and four paces from the left edge which in Tour talk is a “go pin.”

Still, by the end of a sultry day the numbers were undeniable. Of the 111 Palmer Flighters, 14 made birdie and 31 came in with more than respectable pars.

Even many of those who were treated to the full 17th did so in style. Matt McCathy from Colorado pitched his tee shot on the green about 10 feet right of the hole and watched helplessly as it spun off the putting surface, over the wooden bulkhead and into the soup. McCathy dropped his next shot into the water in front of the bunker before pitching to 4 feet from the drop zone.

“Solid (triple bogey) 6,” he smiled afterward.

Not everyone found the going as easy as Vanpoucke and company, however, and the consensus was the real-time 17th hole is much different than the HiDef version that is beamed across the globe in May.

If a television adds 10 pounds to people, cameras must tack on an extra acre or so according to Tuesday’s participants.

“The surface area looks a lot bigger on TV,” a wide-eyed McCathy said.

And if Tuesday’s play suggests the 17th hole is a bit overhyped that did little to help those who were playing the game’s most-talked-about 145 yards for the first time.

Scheuerman purchased an “app” for his iPhone for the event with a diagram of the hole and took a long hard look before finally settling on an 8-iron. And what pearl of wisdom did the app offer? “Start praying,” he smiled. “It’s so famous. You watch the pros and I just wanted a par. Please get on the green.”

Whether it is marketing or mind tricks, the 17th hole can get into a player’s head – be it in May playing for TPC glory or September for 19th hole bragging rights.

“It’s the only hole you start thinking about the night before,” said Jim Badovinac, who double bogeyed the 17th on Tuesday. “I called my son last night and said, ‘Be thinking of me a lot at about 11 a.m. because that’s when I should be playing the 17th.’ He was like, ‘Come on dad.’”

Now that’s what Pete Dye likes to hear.

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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