Honesty and Anger Sutton Speaks

By Rich LernerNovember 3, 2006, 5:00 pm
From the range of his new golf course in Fredericksburg, Texas, 60 miles from Austin, Hal Sutton looks beyond the rugged hill country and plainly does not like what he sees on the horizon.
 
Im so disgusted with where everythings gone I dont even want to play the game, he told me Thursday by phone.
 
Hal Sutton
Hal Sutton has played in only one PGA TOUR event this year, missing the cut in the Nissan Open.
And so he hasnt. I havent played but three times in the last three months, he said with his cowboy drawl. Ive enjoyed being a daddy and a husband. Now 48, Hal has four kids age three to 10.
 
The call to Sutton was intended to yield an opinion on Paul Azinger, the new Ryder Cup captain. Hes the right choice, Sutton responded without hesitation. He represents what the Ryder Cup is all about. Hes got passion. But there have been captains before that have had passion.
 
In fact, the U.S. is 0 for its last four blood-and-guts, spit-in-your-face captains: Lanny Wadkins, Curtis Strange, Hal, and most recently, Tom Lehman. Ben Crenshaw, the only victorious captain of the last decade, surely had passion, but it was served differently, with the gentle touch of an old mystic. Tom Kite, on the losing end in 1997, didnt outwardly breathe fire.
 
Theres no captain thats going to make the difference, Sutton said with a tinge of resignation. Of course now, the phone call was no longer about Azinger.
 
Were in a vacuum in golf in America, Sutton began, and I knew I was about to experience a strong Texas wind.
 
Were consumed by the almighty dollar, he said. Weve forgotten that we all play the game because we love it. Greatness doesnt worry about money. Greatness worries about bein great.
 
Were a product of our environment, he explained. Were playing a game that requires us to hit it high and long. In the old days we had to do more with different golf shots.
 
Sutton emphasized that its not necessarily the fault of the players. We got too many people in leadership capacities that dont understand the game at its core, he said. Were conforming to what they say the market wants and what manufacturers are giving us and its weakening our players.
 
The market wants Tiger Woods. And therein, Sutton believes, lay a problem.
 
Everyones trying to be like Tiger, said the man who took heat for pairing No. 1 with Phil Mickelson in an experiment gone terribly wrong at Oakland Hills. Theres no individualism. Theyre all trying to swing like Tiger.
 
Look, Rich, he implored, growing more animated, its 400 yards to the other end of the range from where Im sittin and if Jack and Arnie and Raymond and Lee and Gary and Tiger were hittin balls we wouldnt need to walk down there to tell which is which. You could tell em from 400 yards away.
 
Is that the players fault? No. Its just that weve got it built in our minds that you have to be a certain way to be good.
 
I have respect for Jim Furyk because he doesnt conform to anybody, Sutton added. Hes been doin it his way for a long time and hes been doin it pretty damn good hasnt he?
 
Sutton puts some blame at the doorstep of Americas junior golf system.
 
We dont have world class players in their 20s, he said. Thats a failure on our part.
 
The greatest in the world learned the game on the golf course, Sutton said. People think you can learn it on the range. Mechanics make you tight. It will not free you up to play the game. There were many days when the great players werent hittin it their best and they still figured a way to win. You dont need reinforcement after every shot.
 
With the promise of PGA TOUR millions, youngsters and parents chase the dream, often spending lifes savings to attend intensive academies while traveling a junior tournament circuit that would wear down even a hardened veteran.
 
We need to go back to investing in kids' futures with no agendas and no management fees, try to realign whats important in the game. Everyones taking out of the game and not putting back in. I had people teach me the game and never charged me for a lesson.
 
We all have an investment in this game.
 
It took us a generation to get into this and it will take us a generation to get out of it.
 
And then, Hal had to go, the competitor who once feared no golfer, not even Tiger, now in something of a self-imposed exile. The work of fixing the game too big for one man, hes content to put the finishing touches on a golf course amidst the rolling hills of Texas, far from the profession he no longer knows.
 
Email your thoughts to Rich Lerner

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 Web.com 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.