Plenty of drama in store for final day of pool play

By Ryan LavnerMarch 25, 2016, 12:51 am

AUSTIN, Texas – The final day of group play at the WGC-Dell Match Play should have just about everything.

Winner-take-all matches.

Sudden-death playoffs.

And hey, who knows? Maybe even a few dustups between players with nothing to play for but pride and a few points.

Another marathon day at Austin Country Club finally brought some much-needed clarity to the PGA Tour’s version of Royal Rumble, but so much remains unsettled.

By adding half points and eliminating the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Tour has restored a bit of drama and intrigue to the final day of group play. No one has clinched a spot in the knockout stage, even though 13 players – including Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson – sport a 2-0 record this week.

Four matches are win-or-go-home Friday, and Bill Haas and Charl Schwartzel need only a half point in their respective matches to advance.

But no third-round match will be as intriguing as the bout between Mickelson and Patrick Reed.

WGC-Dell Match Play: Full coverage | Bracket

After a 5-and-4 victory in his opening match, Mickelson was fortunate to escape with a 1-up decision over Daniel Berger on a day when neither player had his best stuff. Reed, meanwhile, has been ruthlessly efficient so far, leading for all but two of the 33 holes he’s played.

“He doesn’t make any mistakes,” Mickelson said. “He keeps the ball in play, he’s a very good ball-striker, and he’s a good putter. He doesn’t give holes away like Daniel and I did today. I’ve got to bring a lot better golf tomorrow.”

Reed has always thrived in a match-play setting, even going back to his days as a junior golfer. In college, he went 6-0 in singles while leading Augusta State to back-to-back NCAA titles. He went 3-0-1 in his Ryder Cup debut in 2014. Last year, Reed went 2-1 in the round-robin format, but he couldn’t overcome an opening loss and was sent packing.

Now, he’s fully in control of his own fate.

“That’s all I can hope for,” he said, “is to be in the driver’s seat rather than hoping on other guys. I finally got myself in the right position and hopefully can continue to play well.”

McIlroy also will start the knockout stage a day early – his match Friday against Kevin Na will be for a spot in the Round of 16.

Indeed, of all the myriad scenarios at this Match Play – and there are many, too many – theirs is the simplest: Win or go home.

“It’s nice because you can go out on the golf course and not have to look at the other match in your group and see how you’re doing,” said McIlroy, who has won 15 of his last 18 matches in this event. “There’s clarity in your mind. You go out and you try to win, and that’s it.”

Louis Oosthuizen, who has reached the quarterfinals in this event each of the past two years, will square off against Andy Sullivan in the only other battle of the unbeatens. Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar, both of whom are 1-0-1 this week, will also face off to see who moves on to the weekend.

Spieth is undefeated so far but will play against his close friend Justin Thomas in a match that means just a bit more than bragging rights. Though Thomas (0-2) has already been eliminated, Spieth is guaranteed at least a head-to-head playoff regardless of the outcome. To advance, all he needs is to tie Thomas.

“But even if he’s out of it, he’ll still want to beat me,” Spieth said. “That’s kind of who we are. As much as I just want to halve the match and stay in tomorrow and practice, I don’t think he’s going to want that to be the case. I’m going to have to bring my A game.”

It’s anyone’s guess what kind of game those in the six meaningless matches will bring.

Remember last year? Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose-to-nose during the final day because of a disputed ruling. Few expected that in the genteel world of pro golf, but the situation was ripe for such a blowup, with two players who were winless, frustrated and probably embarrassed having to play a match with only a few FedEx Cup points and a bit of cash up for grabs.

A repeat would be good fun, of course, but it would detract from what figures to be a wild and wacky final day of group play, with 26 matches of significance.

And so forget about the pools, the point totals and the possibilities. The real match-play tournament is about to begin.

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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.

“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

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
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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.