Dufner conquers nerves (he has them!) for first win

By April 30, 2012, 1:27 am

AVONDALE, La. – Jason Dufner stood over the putt – not even 2 feet – and didn’t move. What was happening? He had missed other crucial putts in other tournaments, but never one this short. What was he thinking?

'I was thinking, ‘Just don't miss it. This is for the win,’' he said. 'I hate to admit it but those thoughts creep into your head. I just wanted to stroke that putt like I would with one hand on a Tuesday round at your home club.' 

Instead, he rolled it in conventionally, and as the ball fell, so did his status as a winless PGA Tour player. Now he was Jason Dufner, 2012 Zurich Classic of New Orleans champion. Winner in a playoff over Ernie Els.

He raised his arms in what looked like more shrug than celebration. Dufner may appear to lack a pulse at times on the course, but he insists his heart races like anyone else’s. 

'There's a lot of nerves out there,” he said. “I know it doesn't look that way with me, but it's stressful when you're trying to win.”

'I don't know how long he can keep it up, that wall, but he's doing a good job so far,' Els said, laughing. 'Kind of reminds me of myself back in the day.' 

Dufner, 35, had taken at least a share of the lead into the weekend five previous times in his PGA Tour career, including twice already this season. Until Sunday, he had failed to seal the deal. 

'There's been a good bit of pressure, people asking, 'Why haven't you been winning? Why can't you close the deal?'' Dufner said. 'Friends, family, media and even people in my inner circle were asking. To get that off my back, maybe that will jump-start me and get me thinking that I can compete out here and win some of these things.' 

Shedding the label of best player on Tour without a victory, however, required overcoming his own nerves and a three-time major champion. 

Dufner and Els finished tied at 19 under par after 72 holes at TPC Louisiana. Each could have won by birdieing the par-5 18th hole in regulation, but both settled for par. Dufner’s was especially disappointing, coming after he had made two birdies and an eagle on the hole in the first three rounds. 

To get to the 72nd hole with a chance to win, however, Dufner first had to escape almost certain doom at the 16th. Tied with Els on the tee and with a 3-wood in hand at the short par-4, Dufner tugged his tee shot through the fairway and into a water hazard.  

Caddie Kevin Baile let his man process what had happened and what he needed to do to get up and down for par. 

'When you've got the fastest horse in the race, you don't mess with him at all,' Baile said. 'That was probably the only bad shot he hit all week.' 

Looking at bogey or worse, Dufner had an 83-yard wedge shot which he played safe to 45 feet right of the hole. Then he snaked in the par save. 

'It's unexpected, but that's what I tried to do,' Dufner said. 'I knew I had to do it. I had that putt last year for birdie, so I was comfortable with it.' 

Dufner’s fiancée, Amanda Boyd, welled up with tears as the putt fell. 

'I had just heard really loud cheers for Ernie on the hole ahead and thought it was for birdie,” she said. “Then with Jason looking like he was going to make bogey or double bogey, I had that all running through my head. When he made that putt, tears came to my eyes. It was so exciting.' 

On the first playoff hole, No. 18, Dufner reached in two but three-putted. He thought the tournament had been lost as Els stood over a 5-footer for the win.  But the South African missed.

'A good mentality to have is to think that somebody is going to make a putt like that. A lot of guys think that way,' he said. 'Obviously it didn't go in, so I felt like I had a second chance.' 

Playing No. 18 again, Els was forced to lay up after driving into a fairway bunker. Dufner found the green in two for a second time, nearly in the identical spot as the first playoff hole. This time, his lag putt came to rest safely past the cup. 

After Els missed a 15-footer, Dufner stood frozen over his tap-in, finally stroking it into the hole.

Els was disappointed not to win for the 19th time on the PGA Tour and punch a ticket back to the Masters, which he missed this year for the first time since 1993.  

'Disappointing to lose but all in all, I had a good week,' he said. 'I really felt shooting those four rounds in the 60s the way I did, was really nice.  Just came up short.' 

Other than the putt he missed on the first playoff hole, Els could not blame his putter. He did not have a single three-putt green in four rounds.

'I didn't hit a great putt on that first playoff hole. It was a better putt than I hit in Tampa,' he said with a laugh, referring to a putt he missed on the final hole of the Transitions Championship that would have put him in a playoff. 'But it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be.' 

Both players will skip Quail Hollow next week. Dufner will marry Boyd  in Alabama. 'It's a great wedding present for both of us,' he said of his $1,152,000 winner’s check. 'It helps paying for the wedding, which is more expensive than I thought. It's a bit of a gift for her and a bit of a gift for me.'  

The newlyweds, however, will not be able to get away until later in the summer. It's back on Tour in two weeks. 

'The honeymoon's going to be at the Players Championship,” Dufner said. “Ever been there? It's nice.

“They have an island green.'

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.