A major championship broke out at the 99th PGA

By Will GrayAugust 12, 2017, 1:15 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – For much of the afternoon, it appeared that Kevin Kisner would carry a healthy cushion into the weekend at the PGA Championship as he looks to secure his first major title.

But then came the rain, transforming Quail Hollow Club from a burly obstacle course into a supple dart board. The bogeys that had dominated the scoreboard quickly turned into birdies, and suddenly Kisner has plenty of company near the top of the standings with the second round still in progress.

In other words, a major championship has finally broken out at the year’s final major.

Three of the world’s top 10 players will wake up Saturday in position to challenge for the Wanamaker Trophy. Chief among them is world No. 3 Hideki Matsuyama, fresh off his five-shot romp at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, who managed to draw even with Kisner by nightfall.

Matsuyama’s claim to the cringe-inducing title of best player without a major has always included a hiccup because he has yet to truly challenge for a title coming down the stretch. His runner-up this year at Erin Hills still saw him finish four shots behind Brooks Koepka, and he hasn’t felt the pressure of hitting a critical shot with a major trophy hanging in the balance.

But the Japanese phenom is in the midst of perhaps the best stretch of his career, having already won three times this season and coming off a course record-tying 61 at Firestone. A 103-minute weather delay Friday did little to stunt his momentum, as Matsuyama closed out a bogey-free 64 that seemed to require little effort and equaled the low round of the week.

Now tied with Kisner at 8 under, this undoubtedly represents his best chance for major glory that would provide a watershed moment for his homeland.

“I’m probably not playing as I did at the end of last year. However, I’m riding the momentum from the round that I had on Sunday,” Matsuyama said through a translator. “Hopefully I can keep that going for 36 more holes.”


PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog: Day 2 | Full coverage


But Matsuyama is not the only big name who cut into Kisner’s advantage in the waning daylight. Jason Day described his year to date earlier this week as “very, very poor,” and the Aussie is now improbably 15 months removed from his most recent win. But Day seems to save his best stuff for this event, having won two years ago at Whistling Straits and second last year in defense of his title.

Day was well off the radar before coming to life with an eagle on the par-5 seventh hole, which sparked a seven-hole stretch during which he was 6 under. In the span of a few minutes, Day went from also-ran to a title contender within two shots of the lead, one who appears to have once again discovered the confident stride that helped him start the year as the top-ranked player in the world.

“It’s been slowly building,” Day said. “It was nice to be able to drive the way I did today, and set myself up with the opportunities and being able to capitalize on those opportunities felt even better. Because they were the two things that were missing pretty much the whole year is my driving and my putting, and being able to combine that today just felt like the old days, which is only last year.”

Rickie Fowler is contending at a major for the third time this year, and having taken a tactical approach over the first 36 holes he sits five shots off the pace at 3 under. So, too, does Justin Thomas, who bounced back from six weeks of middling play with a second-round 66 under the watchful eye of his father, Mike, who still works as a PGA professional.

And if you needed any more proof that a major is officially up for grabs, Louis Oosthuizen has even come out of hiding and trails by only three.

The themes that started the week – Jordan Spieth’s Slam ambitions and Rory McIlroy’s effort to rekindle an affinity with Quail Hollow – have been shoved to the back burner.

But in their stead, a tantalizing collection of storylines have converged. The PGA Championship has produced a steady supply of weekend drama dating back to the twilight finish three years ago at Valhalla, and the 99th edition should be no exception.

Kisner could very well still leave Charlotte with the trophy, especially given his level of comfort through two rounds on a difficult track. But this much is clear: it won’t be as easy of a waltz to the finish line as it once appeared.

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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