Tougher course, same old party for players in Phoenix

By Ryan Reiterman February 7, 2016, 12:53 am

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – When Tom Weiskopf toughened up TPC Scottsdale two years ago, he hoped players would never reach 20 under again.

It looks like he will get his wish for another year.

Danny Lee stayed calm and collected while surrounded by a record-setting crowd of more than 200,000 people Saturday to post a 4-under 67 for a three-shot lead over Rickie Fowler (1-under 70) and Hideki Matsuyama (3-under 68) heading into the final round at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Lee’s at 13 under par, so rest easy Phil Mickelson and Mark Calcavecchia, your record total of 28 under par is safe ... probably forever.

But don’t worry low-score lovers, this is still the Phoenix Open. It’s just going to be a little harder to win the trophy on Sunday.

Bryce Molder (7-under 64), Mickelson and Boo Weekley (6-under 65s) showed there are still low scores out there.

There was still an insane amount of people at the event. For the first time more than 200,000 fans came through the gates. The final number was 201,003, which shattered the one-day record of 189,722 set in the third round two years ago. Outside of auto racing, it was the highest-attended day at a U.S. sporting event.

And all those fans meant there was still a gigantic party going on all over the course on a cloudless, 70-degree day. It was a really good day to be an Uber driver.

Waste Management Phoenix Open: Articles, photos and videos

But for the players in the final two groupings, the birdies were much harder to come by after Weiskopf redesigned several greens, moved a few tees back and tightened some landings areas to put more of a premium on driving, even for the longer hitters.

“Making birdie out here is not easy because of the greens being so firm,” Lee said. “But the good side is greens [are] so fast and rolling really truly. If you just know where to putt it, I think you have a good chance to make long putts out here.”

While Lee is in the ideal spot, a Sunday charge will be more difficult to pull off for players like Mickelson, who will start the final round five shots back.

“It's a lot harder to catch somebody,” said Mickelson, a three-time Phoenix Open champ. “I don't know what the number is going to be tomorrow. I just know that I'm starting to play well. There is a lot of holes here where you simply cannot get the ball within 15, 20 feet. So it's going to come down to the putter.

“A lot of the nuances and subtleties in the new design are taking balls away from the hole, so I have to make a lot of putts,” he said. “If I get hot with a putter like I did today and make a few 20-, 25-footers, I can have a really low round. But it's not the course where you can just knock down the pin all 18 holes. There's maybe 10, 12 that you can, but not all of them.”

That could be good news for Matsuyama and Fowler.

It’s a familiar spot for Fowler, who has won four of his five trophies coming from behind, the only exception being his win two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi.

“I have been in both positions,” Fowler said. “I feel really good about tomorrow. Ultimately, like I said, I wanted to be out front because I felt good in Abu Dhabi, kind of controlling the tournament from up front. But the way I played today that's not the case, so excited to go chase them down tomorrow.”

Fowler, Matsuyama and the rest of Lee’s challengers have history on their side, too. Five of the last six Phoenix Open champions have rallied to win on Sunday.

But Lee has some solid stats on his side. He leads the field in driving accuracy, strokes gained-putting, and is tied for most birdies made.

“I always struggled [with driving] out here before, but seems like this week I have been driving it really nicely, which you need to do out here, and that's the key of my game this week, I think,” he said.

Lee broke through for his first PGA Tour title last year at the Greenbrier, but he’s never had the 54-hole lead resting on his slender shoulders.

Lee admitted he’s not exactly sure how his game will hold up in what’s going to be another crazy day in Phoenix with Fowler once again in his group and Mickelson, a former Scottsdale resident and Arizona State alum, in the group ahead.

“I don't know,” Lee said on how he will sleep tonight. “I’ve never been into this situation before, so I will tell you tomorrow morning.”

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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.

“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