Garcia Builds an Early Lead at Sawgrass

By Associated PressMay 8, 2008, 4:00 pm
2007 THE PLAYERSPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Sergio Garcia put together his third straight impressive round at The Players Championship. The first two gave him a runner-up finish last year. The 6-under 66 on Thursday was only a great start.
 
With growing confidence in his balky putting stroke and superb ball-striking that has become his hallmark, Garcia birdied all the par 5s and picked up a bonus birdie with a 50-foot putt on the 14th hole to build a two-shot lead on the frightening Stadium Course.
 
It was a good step toward ending an 0-for-53 drought on the PGA Tour, the longest of his career.
 
At the end of the day, the only thing I can do is keep working on it, keep giving myself chances, and its going to happen, Garcia said. I feel like Im getting closer and closer. At least now, I feel like I can do it, and its just a matter of being able to do it.
 
Kenny Perry and Paul Goydos each had a 68 in the mild, morning breeze on a perfectly conditioned golf course. Sawgrass turned tricky, if not downright difficult, in the afternoon, and Ernie Els was among those who paid dearly.
 
Els was at 2 under until his wedge came up 20 feet short of the island green on the 17th, and he barely kept his third shot on land. He wound up with a triple bogey, and a 12-foot birdie on the final hole for a 70 didnt improve his spirits much.
 
I think they should blow it up, Els said. Everything you worked for in 4 1/2 hours, in one shot its all gone.
 
Of the 34 players who broke par in the opening round, only eight played in the afternoon in the increasingly blustery conditions. Todd Hamilton was the best among late starters with a 69, while Wachovia winner Anthony Kim rallied for a 70.
 
Even though this tournament has a diverse list of champions, it was no less surprising to see Goydos so high up the leaderboard. He had never broken 70 in his nine previous appearances.
 
Skipping 18 was a good idea, though, Goydos said.
 
Goydos hit one of 19 balls into the water on the 17th, but he scrambled for a bogey and rode that momentum to four birdies over his next six holes.
 
Phil Mickelson, trying to become the first player in the history of this tournament to successfully defend his title, was flirting with the leaders until a sloppy middle to his round put him at 70. Coming off consecutive birdies, including a wedge to 4 feet on the 17th, Mickelson failed to reach the 18th green from the right rough, then made bogey from 95 yards away in the middle of the fairway on No. 1.
 
I feel as though Im turning 66s into 70s, and Im going to have to fix that this weekend, he said. Im going to have to stop letting those shots slide in the middle of the round that are costing me in the end. But I would have taken anything under par starting the day.
 
Mickelson won by two shots last year over Garcia, even though the Spaniard was never really in the mix. Garcia was the runner-up when Sean OHair put two in the water on the 17th to slide down the leaderboard.
 
Even so, Garcia finished 67-66, and one year later, nothing has slowed his momentum.
 
In his 10th year as a pro, Garcia has been an enigma. No other player younger than Tiger Woods has contended so often in the majors and showed so much variety in his game.
 
Hes like Tiger, Goydos said. His go-to shot is the shot thats needed.
 
But frustration has been setting in over three winless seasons, dating to the old Booz Allen Classic at Congressional, and Garcia recently turned to putting guru Stan Utley for help. This was a major move, for Garcia has relied almost exclusively on his father for help.
 
My main idea was to get back to the way I used to putt, like 10 or 12 years ago, when I was a good putter, Garcia said. At least now I have some rounds where I come out and say I actually shot what I should have shot, and not come out and think, I should have been four or five shots better which is always not very nice.
 
And after one round, Garcia did not say he was playing more than just the field.
 
He is tied with Adam Scott for most PGA Tour victories (six) by players under 30, although it was hard to fathom how he could go nearly three years without winning.
 
Its not secret to anybody that hes been struggling with his putting for a little while, but as soon as he gets it right, we all know hes going to be winning, said Ian Poulter, among five players at 69. I know hes working hard, and Im sure hell be in the winners circle as soon as he gets it right. It may be this week. If hes putting well this week, then who knows? And watch out.
 
Garcia had only one bogey, a three-putt on the par-3 eighth, and that was no disgrace. His ball came up short of a mound that looked like an elephant burial ground, and he missed the 8-footer for par. But he answered with a pair of 3-woods on the par-5 ninth, followed by a simple up-and-down to end his day with a birdie.
 
He also made birdie from the bunker on the par-5 11th, chipped to 4 feet on the par-5 second and two-putted for birdie on the 16th.
 
Typical of this tournament, there were plenty of scores under par, and an equal amount of big numbers. Someone asked Garcia if he felt the Stadium Course was more fair on Thursday.
 
Its always fair, he said. Its just a matter of being tougher or easier.
 
Garcia is 17-under par over his last three rounds, so it must feel awfully easy. All he needs now is a trophy to show for it.
 
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    McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

    By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

    One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

    McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

    It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

    McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

    Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

    Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

    Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

    The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

    The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

    Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

    The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

    A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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    Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

    Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

    Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

    South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

    Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

    The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

     

     

    Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

    By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

    It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

    Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

    Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

    "We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


    Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


    Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

    Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.