Wyatt's New Orleans finish opens doors

By Rex HoggardMay 3, 2016, 6:40 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Bobby Wyatt spent Tuesday morning at a local Apple store trying to coax his iPhone back to life.

He can’t say for certain his phone’s demise was the byproduct of overload, but admits “when I glanced at it right before it stopped working I had over 50 text messages.”

In the hurried moments after Wyatt’s fourth-place finish on Monday at the weather-delayed and drenched Zurich Classic, that’s about the only thing that didn’t go his way.

Playing on a sponsor exemption, the 23-year-old briefly took the lead on Monday at 14 under par before a pair of unlikely bogeys at Nos. 14 and 15 derailed the best-case scenario, but all things considered, Wyatt’s first PGA Tour start of 2016 will not be soon forgotten.

His final-round 64 left him one shot out of a playoff won by Brian Stuard, but gave Wyatt much more in return, including job security, increased opportunities and, perhaps most important, a renewed sense of confidence.

Like many young stars fresh out of college, Wyatt’s transition to the professional world was eye-opening – harsh even. For every Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler there are many more Bobby Wyatts, players who are dubbed “can’t miss” leaving college but quickly discover that things move much quicker in the play-for-pay ranks.

With the unflinching honesty that only comes with experience, Wyatt refers to those first few years since leaving the University of Alabama as his “failures.”

Playing on sponsor invite, Wyatt finishes fourth

In five Tour starts after leaving Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 2014 he didn’t finish better than 60th, he failed to advance out of Web.com Tour Q-School last fall and began 2016 with nowhere to play.

“I had my chances and I didn’t do it, but I learned a lot from those experiences,” Wyatt said on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Championship.

With no status in the United States the alternative was extreme. He traveled halfway around the world to ply his trade on the Southern Africa Tour, where he made three starts earlier this year.

The results were encouraging; he made two of three cuts and tied for ninth place at the Dimension Data Pro-Am in February, but the biggest benefit wasn’t so much the change of scenery as much as it was a changing narrative.

“Bobby’s biggest issue is dealing with the expectations of his past, of everything he’d accomplished and his talent," said Jeremy Elliott, Wyatt’s manager with Lagardere. "And we wanted to find any way possible for him to have status on Tour and if that meant him playing in South Africa, that’s what we were going to do. One of the advantages of that was he was able to get away from a lot of the noise.”

When Wyatt was 17 he shot 57 in the Alabama Boys State Junior and in 2013 he helped lead the Crimson Tide to the school’s first NCAA title. He went undefeated at the ’13 Walker Cup and was named a first-team All-American his senior year.

As so often happens, however, that success didn’t translate to the professional ranks. As he watched contemporaries and former teammates enjoy success at the next level, the pressure built.

After his Q-School miss last year, he turned to swing coach Scott Hamilton to straighten out a driver that was prone to a two-way miss.

“We flattened out his swing a little bit and got him more on plane,” Hamilton said. “We worked together [in February] and ever since then he’s been off to the races.”

With few playing options Wyatt turned to Monday qualifying and two weeks ago he missed earning a spot in the Texas Open by a stroke after making seven birdies.

The results were there but the starts were not, which prompted Elliott to make one final plea to officials at the Zurich Classic for a sponsor exemption, and Wyatt didn’t disappoint.

Perhaps the most impressive part of Wyatt’s week in New Orleans was his play despite the pressures of his vastly limited status.

“It was a big opportunity for me, I knew that. My ultimate goal is to make it out here and to do that I have to take advantage of these kinds of opportunities,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt’s finish at TPC Louisiana secured him a spot in this week’s field at the Wells Fargo Championship and enough FedEx Cup points to assure him status on the Web.com Tour next year.

With 136 FedEx Cup points, Wyatt also has a chance to play his way onto the PGA Tour by matching the amount (458) needed to finish inside the top 125 on last year’s list. But mostly Wyatt said it’s the confidence gained from last week’s finish that will help propel him to that coveted next stage of his career.

“I learned I can win out here,” he said. “Even after those bogeys [at Nos. 14 and 15], I knew how well I was playing and didn’t feel intimidated or scared.”

That his breakthrough may or may not have blown up his iPhone was an acceptable byproduct of his success. “I got a new [phone],” he smiled.

Getty Images

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

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.