The Unquestioned Champion

By Rich LernerMay 10, 2009, 4:00 pm
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The PlayersPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' The week started with all those birdies looking like college bowl games in late December. None of it meant much.
 
And because there are no games without pre-games these days, we jumped into a college football-style debate early in the week over No. 1.
 
We were reminded by the end that when Phil Mickelsons good, hes very good. He just wasnt this week and never factored.
 
Henrik Stenson
Henrik Stenson stepped up when no one else would Sunday at The Players. (Getty Images)
When Tiger Woods is not very good ' and he wasnt this week ' hes still a threat and thats the difference.
 
Its the canyon-sized difference between one never-ever-give up guy and all the young players who would, but never will be king with Tiger on the scene ' Anthony Kim and Adam Scott, who missed the cut; and Sergio Garcia, who missed the mark.
 
Still, Tiger leaves with more questions and maybe more vulnerable than at any time in years, a victim of his own outrageously high standards.
 
Ill be curious to see how much Tiger will play between now and Bethpage. The Memorial is a month down the road and thats most likely his next event. Im also curious to see just what the swing will look like the next time we see him.
 
It was odd to see Tiger playing the final three holes of an important championship, and having it not mean anything. Still, he finished with pride, always battling, always trying to get better.
 
And though Tiger didnt win its possible he impacted the guy who looked to be in perfect position after 54 holes. Sadly for Alex Cejka, Sundays with Tiger generally do not offer any feel-good lessons like 'Tuesdays with Morrie.'
 
With Cejka wilting, and everyone else clinging, it became for a stretch a game of what-number-would-you-sit-comfortably-in-the-club-house-with.
 
A game of post it and wait.
 
It was an old fashioned U.S. Open game of he-who-bleeds-the-least, of can-you-hit-a-fairway, until Henrik Stenson, mastering the lost art of driving it in play, finally took hold of the championship. He was brilliant.
 
Two years after his Match Play victory this is further validation for Stenson. Now is he the best player never to have won a major? Certainly at this point in time, he appears to have jumped ahead of Garcia.
 
Its also further validation for global golf. Angel Cabrera won the Masters, Stenson here, and Padraig Harrington the last two majors of last year. In fact the last seven big championships played have produced only one American winner: Tiger Woods.
 
Its validation, too, for Fanny Sunneson, still getting the most out of the best players in the world, lugging the bag for Stenson 20 years after Nick Faldo. And as colleague Brandel Chamblee points out: Stenson looked like Faldo in his heyday.
 
Stensons victory also validates The Players Championship. All three winners since the move to May have been big ticket talents ' Mickelson, Garcia and now Stenson.
 
Also, with each passing year, we grow more familiar with holes beyond 17, as were getting to know Nos. 2, 4, 9 and 14.
 
No. 1 for this week is the cool guy about whom so little is known ' icy like Ivan Drago in a Rocky sequel. Turns out Henrik Stensons a bit of a goof ball, with a sly, dry wit.
 
Hes quite comfortable, as we saw at Doral, in his own skin, sans the clothes.
 
Then, and again today, he showed the world just what hes made of.
 
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    Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

    By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    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."

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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.

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    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

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    Green jacket tour

    Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

    Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

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    Man of the people


    Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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    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'

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    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