Tranquility amid the mayhem

By Rex HoggardApril 11, 2011, 3:18 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – This was a contest not of attrition, but of addition, a free-for-all free of any of the traditional structure and form that defines the men's first major championship of the season.

Call it the mosh-pit Masters. Call it confusing. Call it a revolving door that Charl Schwartzel kicked in with the kind of Sunday performance that creates legacies, not that historians will have much luck piecing together a puzzle with more moving parts than a two-piece back swing.

On a sweltering April day no fewer than eight players held at least a share of the lead, and cheers, more so than the leaderboard, was the only way to keep up.

From the mayhem emerged Schwartzel, whose closing 66 started with a chip-in birdie at the first and a holed-out wedge at the third for eagle and ended with Sunday’s first and last moment of absolute clarity, a walk-off birdie and an infinitely misleading two-stroke victory for the South African over Jason Day and Adam Scott.

Charl Schwartzel
Schwartzel chipped in for birdie on the first hole Sunday then holed his approach for eagle on the par-4 third. (Getty Images)
“I always thought if I was going to win one (a major) it would be this one,” Schwartzel said. “It just suits my eye and it’s like the courses I grew up playing back home.”

But this wasn’t a normal Masters. This wasn’t a normal anything. It was championship chaos, which began, as they normally do, with a collapse and escalated into Grand Slam anarchy.

Rory McIlroy may have won the 75th Masters on Saturday, as many predicted, when he holed a 20-footer for birdie at the 17th to secure a four-stroke cushion that may as well have been a 40-shot lead given the Northern Irishman’s steady play.

But the door opened with a bogey at the first. Less than 30 minutes into his round McIlroy had slipped into a tie for the lead and into a spiral that wouldn’t stop until he signed for a closing 80 and tie for 15th place.

Schwartzel, however, was headed in the other direction thanks to a chip-in from 30 yards at the first and an approach from 118 yards that caromed into the cup at the third hole. For those keeping score at home, that’s two putts through three holes.

Tiger Woods, making believers out of those who have doubted his “progress,” joined the scrum with a 13-putt front nine that added up to 31, his lowest front-nine score since 2005, the last year he tucked into a green jacket.

“I hit it good all day. I hit it good this entire weekend, so that was nice,” said Woods, who capped his front-nine charge with a 15-foot par save after short-siding himself at No. 9.

They played the first Masters with Augusta National’s nines reversed. Woods must have been confused considering how his day transpired. He was 5 under through eight holes and signed for a 67 to tie for fourth, his seventh consecutive top-10 at the former nursery.

Not a green jacket, but not bad considering it’s been a long 12 months since the four-time Masters champion returned to the competitive fray. But that will be of little solace to a man who is starting to look like the guy who once figured “second sucks,” particularly when things got interesting on the back nine.

McIlroy hit his drive at the 10th hole adjacent Jones Cabin and that would be as close to Butler Cabin as he would get. A triple bogey-double bogey-bogey stretch at the turn nixed his title chances. But there were plenty of players ready to take his place.

When Woods birdied the 15th hole at 5:10 p.m. ET there were five players tied for the lead – Woods, Adam Scott, Schwartzel, K.J. Choi and Angel Cabrera. When Day birdied the 13th hole 20 minutes later there were now six.

And on it went like a game of green jacket tag.

Scott pulled away with a birdie at No. 16 to go to 12 under, and Schwartzel, playing in the group behind him, answered with a birdie of his own at the par 3.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Masters this close,” said Luke Donald, who finished at 10 under. “The leaderboard was changing all day long.”

Schwartzel, 26, finally pulled away for good, closing with four consecutive birdies and even those victimized by his heroics were in awe of the fireworks.

“It was unreal,” said Day, who birdied the last from 10 feet to finish at 12 under in his first Masters. “It seemed like there were screams coming from every other hole.”

If the 23-year-old’s assessment sounds like youthful hyperbole, it wasn’t.

Phil Mickelson began the week contemplating putting two drivers in his bag, Choi headed out with four hybrids in tow, and Schwartzel rounded 72 with a singular purpose – to collect the major championship he’d dreamt of his entire life.

It was a dream that fully took root at last year’s Open Championship, late into the Sunday celebration of fellow countryman Louis Oosthuizen’s victory at the famed Jigger Inn adjacent the Old Course.

“He was looking at the Claret Jug and said, ‘I’m so happy for him, but . . .,’” said Chubby Chandler, Schwartzel and Oosthuizen’s manager with International Sports Management. “I said, ‘You don’t have to say anything. Your time will come.’”

That it would come so early and on such a wildly explosive afternoon was beyond anyone’s imagination.

“It’s what you dream of,” said Schwartzel’s caddie Greg Hearmon. “It’s just amazing. I’ve watched this since I was 12 years old.”

Two of the last three Grand Slam keepsakes have now gone to the Springboks, and two of the last three green jackets.

Schwartzel is a leaderboard watcher, not that Sunday’s bedlam was easily followed even inside the ropes, which makes the South African’s uncommonly calm super Sunday so impressive.

“When I saw him on the putting green today before the round I could sense the calmness,” Chandler said.

For Schwartzel, a superior ballstriker, it was that tranquility that proved to be his biggest asset amid the Masters mayhem. On the most volatile of Masters’ Sunday, Schwartzel was the calm that survived the storm.

Follow Rex Hoggard on Twitter @RexHoggard
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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
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.