The Shark Payne and Tiger at Memorial
Normans presence on the world scene in the 1980s and through the first part of the 1990s was electric. He brought a flair and a physicality unmatched by any player and when he flashed those white teeth beneath the brim of his trademark hat he made the guys want to have a beer with him and the ladies want to run away to the Outback with him. But personality alone doesnt ensure entry into golfs loftiest shrine. The record counts. And while Norman let all-time destiny kick him in the groin on far too many occasions, he did bag a pair of British Opens, 18 PGA Tour victories and 56 worldwide. Ultimately, when I take my two boys to the Hall of Fame, I can imagine theyll ask me, Daddy, why did they call that guy the great white shark? I look forward to telling them.
One of Gregs contemporaries, the late, great Payne Stewart, was also rightfully elected to the Hall on 67.5% of the ballots (65% is needed for entry), along with Judy Bell, Karsten Solheim, and the man widely regarded as the first golf professional, Allan Robertson. Donna Caponi was recently elected, while Berhard Langer will defer his induction to 2002 due to a prior commitment. But Novembers ceremony figures to be emotional and star studded.
The memories came rushing back here today as Payne was honored in a moving tribute. Payne thrived on days just like this one, when there was something special in the air, when the golf course was as pure and challenging as this one is, when there was a show to do and not just a round to play. And so we find ourselves missing the high jinx he no doubt would have brought to the clinic, the reverence he would have shown for the great man, Jack Nicklaus, and the course he built. In the right mood, of course, Payne was extraordinary for his quotability and so we can only imagine what he would have said about the gargantuan achievements of Tiger Woods. Or the upcoming Ryder Cup he loved so deeply.
The Memorial Tournament honors Payne Stewart
When he left us inexplicably he was just then growing sagely into the role of fiery elder statesman, the absolute rarity who could draw upon the experience of actually having beaten Tiger Woods in a major championship. Would that Payne Stewart put an arm around Phil Mickelson, or David Duval or Davis Love III and encourage them to keep fighting? Naturally we dont know, but we have a pretty good idea. Because so memorable was the guy that all you have to do is set your mind to thinking about it, and you hear him and clear as day you can see him'the laugh, the Cheshire cat grin, that high pitch twang. We still hear you Payne. We still do.
Tiger Woods recalled his fishing trips to Ireland with Payne. He was always the life of the party, said Tiger. Woods of course is front and center here again at The Memorial. If he prevails, hell be the first since Tom Watson won the Byron from 1978-80 to win the same event three years in a row. That hes been successful at the course Jack built is no surprise. Like Nicklaus, Tigers long, a high ball hitter and fully capable of getting inside the heads of his opponents. Tiger says that Muirfield Village, Cog Hill for The Western, and Firestone set up as well for him as any venues on Tour. Then again, can you name many courses which dont set up well for him?
As for the condition, it is, according to Tiger, perfect. Theyve endured, as they always seem to do, quite a bit of rain here the last several weeks. But the course drains extremely well and the hope is that by moving the event back a week and closer to June, they may escape the kind of wet weather which has plagued this tournament for 33 of the total 100 rounds going back to its inception in 1976.
David Duval would have liked to be here, but a friend is getting married so hes not in the field. Davis Love continues to battle neck problems while Phil Mickelson has decided that he likes playing the week before The U.S. Open, so hell skip Memorial and play Memphis. Had he played here and next week, he wouldve gone seven straight weeks through The U.S. Open.
Even without those heavyweights, this week ranks as one of the most special on Tour. When Scott Hoch was asked if this was one of the best tournaments of the year, he replied, No, its not one of the best, its the best. Very much like the man who hosts it every year, and the man whos won it the last two.
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.
Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.
"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."
Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.
"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.
Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.
"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
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.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“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
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.
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.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18