Stumble shouldn't deter Stenson in major quest

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2015, 11:44 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – A few years back a group of on-air pundits were asked who would be the first Swede to win a major championship.

Someone picked Carl Pettersson. Another went with Jonas Blixt. Annika Sorenstam’s name may have also been mentioned in jest; it’s hard to remember exactly because of what happened next.

Henrik Stenson entered the "Morning Drive" studio for the next segment and glared at your scribe, a member of that misguided group, and said simply, menacingly even, “That was a mistake.”

As the golf world inches closer to the year’s first men’s major at Augusta National, Stenson’s admonishment is starting to feel more like foreshadowing.

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, videos and photos

On Sunday on a softer-than-Wonder Bread Bay Hill layout, the stoic-looking Swede didn’t win that elusive major or even a mid-major, but he certainly seemed to take a step toward breaking through that Grand Slam ceiling.

A half-world away Pete Cowen didn’t watch Stenson’s eventful final round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He didn’t see him squander a one-stroke lead late Sunday at Bay Hill.

He didn’t need to.

After 14 years and endless hours working with him on far-flung practice tees he knows the talent that burns within the 38-year-old. So instead, he watched the Man United-Liverpool tilt.

When it comes to Stenson, Cowen knows the fine line between victory and defeat is measured in the moments when things aren’t going his way.

“We like to say if he can keep his melon on he can win anywhere,” Cowen said.

Whether Stenson’s melon is squarely fused to his broad shoulders permanently is still unknown, as evidenced by his near-miss at Arnie’s invitational.

After starting the day with a two-stroke advantage, he dropped two behind the likes of Morgan Hoffmann only to forge ahead with birdies at Nos. 11 and 12.

That’s where the line became blurry. It’s the moment when he and Hoffmann, who was paired with Stenson, were put on the clock by a PGA Tour rules official on the 15th hole.

It was the second time the group was subjected to the pressures of a stopwatch, and will be documented as the moment Stenson three-putted from 45 feet at No. 15, and then he needed three more from the fringe at the par-5 16th hole. For a player who had recorded just two three-putts his first three days it was the metaphorical fork in the road.

“It’s hard when you don’t feel like you can take the time you need,” said Stenson, who would par the final three holes to finish a stroke behind API winner Matt Every. “I just don’t see the point.”

Widely considered a “five-tool” player, it’s Stenson’s ability, and at times inability, to deal with adversity that has covered the divide between consensus world-beater and would-be champion.

It’s why when Stenson rang Cowen past midnight on Wednesday about a swing that had been blown out of position by winds that buffeted the pro-am, the swing coach calmly worked his man through the moment.

“There is one fault that he has with his swing and one fault only,” Cowen said.

The two discussed the esoteric elements of Stenson’s swing. Essentially, Cowen walked him through the mechanics of “getting pressure on the ball.” Put another way, predictable contact creates repeatable results, and Stenson responded with three consecutive rounds in the 60s.

There was no sense of urgency for either Stenson or Cowen because when it comes to the golf swing he is the quintessential Swede, unflappable and detail driven.

It’s an advantage Stenson has come by honestly after a career dotted with peaks and valleys yet defined by quality with Tour victories at a World Golf Championship, The Players and two FedEx Cup playoff stops.

“He’s been through two adverse periods and that has given him confidence to know he can handle anything,” said Cowen, referring to Stenson’s swoons in 2003, when he drifted to 502nd in the world, and 2012, when he dropped to 222nd. “His caddie [Gareth Lord] said that if he keeps his head we’ll have chances every week.”

So far in 2015 on the PGA Tour Stenson has largely played to that script, finishing fourth in his first two starts of the season and runner-up on Sunday at Bay Hill.

It’s likely why Stenson took the long view following his near-miss at Bay Hill.

“My goal is to play as good as I can, be up in contention as many times as I can and the more times I’m there the more tournaments I will win,” Stenson said. “It’s still good practice to feel the heat and be out there in contention today.”

But for those who know Stenson, and what he is capable of, it’s not practice that he needs if he’s going to finish his major quest.

“He’s good enough to win anything, the thing is staying patient,” Cowen said.

Whether he maintained that patience on Sunday at Bay Hill is open to interpretation, although he didn’t break any clubs like he’s done regularly in his career, most notably at the 2013 BMW Championship, but he may have broken some china with the Tour official with the quick second hand.

What isn’t open for discussion is Stenson’s status as the clear second favorite, behind a slow-starting Rory McIlroy, heading into the Masters.

“I think Stenson has played his way to being a favorite,” said Ernie Els when asked about the possible contenders heading into the year’s first major next month at Augusta National.

He also moved to No. 2 in the World Golf Ranking with his bridesmaid showing at the API, but then Cowen didn’t need to see any of that to grasp his man’s status as a major championship conversation starter.

And now the rest of the golf world is learning it, one misguided pundit at a time.

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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
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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.