The Unusual Suspect

By Rex HoggardJuly 18, 2010, 3:06 am

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – When Seve Ballesteros, the sentimental heart and soul of St. Andrews, was forced to withdraw from the Champion’s Challenge one could sense something was afoot; and when Mother Nature pulled the plug on the four-hole exhibition between heroes of Opens past it was clear the golf gods had something different planned for the 150th anniversary of the game’s oldest tilt.

If Louis Oosthuizen is to become the Tony Lema of our generation so be it, but we suspect the script is far from foregone at the Open Championship.

What Oosthuizen lacks in championship pedigree, he has more than made up for with an effortless one-piece action and some of the best lag putting this side of Augusta National.

Even playing alongside Mark Calcavecchia – who made a 9 at the par-5 fifth hole and looked like a man itching to get on the road to Carnoustie for next week’s Senior British Open – Oosthuizen made the game look easy.

But like an NBA game it’s the last quarter that counts and everyone makes a run.

The usual suspects have all come and gone. Tiger Woods said on Saturday following his second-consecutive 73 that he is hitting the ball better than he is scoring. Unfortunately for the world No.1 the claret jug is not doled out on an interpretative basis.

He will begin the final turn a dozen clear of the South African gate crasher, which is a better position than world No. 2 Phil Mickelson who bounced his tee shot off a corporate tent adjacent the 16th hole, insert your own joke here, and is another shot adrift at 2 under.

If there will be a challenge on Sunday it will likely come by way an often-injured Englishman who is fighting a cold and hasn’t been the same since a rib injury during his Open Championship warm-up last year sent him to the bench.

Louis Oosthuizen
Oosthuizen is 18 holes away from hoisting the coveted claret jug. (Getty Images)

Paul Casey moved to within one stroke of Oosthuizen with a birdie at the eighth hole and posted a bogey-free 67 to trim a stroke off the South African’s 36-hole advantage, and if anyone within a pitching wedge of the leader has the game to run down a claret jug it is Casey.

Or at least it was Casey. That was before he injured a rib muscle preparing for last year’s Open Championship at Turnberry. Before he struggled through yet another nagging injury with what at times felt like an endless self life.

“This is the way he was swinging before the Open last year when he got hurt,” said Casey’s swing coach Peter Kostis. “It’s poetic justice that he’s playing well here.”

Or maybe it’s the golf gods looking for an out.

Barring a Dustin Johnson-like start for Oosthuizen on Sunday at the Old Course, it will be Casey or it will be a walk-over by a little-known champion on a course that has a history of favoring the favorite. Woods, Nicklaus, Ballesteros, Faldo, Oosthuizen – with all due respect to the affable South African, you pick which player doesn’t belong.

But the issue is simple math. Oosthuizen’s third-round 69 has eliminated most other options. Among the group within nine strokes of Oosthuizen not a single one of them has a major on the mantle.

Lee Westwood, at 7 under par, has the most experience, but his putting has been as cold as a Scottish breeze this week and his track record at major championships is hardly a reason to visit the local betting house.

“Stranger things have been happening this week,” Westwood said. “It can be done, we know that.”

One needed to look no further than Jean van de Velde for validation of Westwood’s optimism. Van de Velde is an on-course radio reporter this week and golf’s ultimate proper verb, as in “he pulled a Van de Velde.” But Oosthuizen doesn’t exactly have the look of the forlorn Frenchman and the Old Course, for all its history and appeal, is not Carnoustie.

Just as Casey and Westwood were about to tee off on the snapshot 18th hole well past cocktail hour on the Firth of Forth, Oosthuizen’s approach shot into the 17th hole rolled just over the green and onto the tee box a few feet from the Englishmen.

Westwood mockingly made a move toward the golf ball with his driver. It wasn’t exactly a white-flag moment, but the field, and the golf gods, are running out of time and options.

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 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.