Garcia Hopes Putting Leads to Big Year

By Associated PressJanuary 5, 2006, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Sergio Garcia stuck two white tees into the practice green at Kapalua and started his drill, one stroke after another with the putter sliding between the two pegs.
 
Garcia noticed watching videotape that when the pressure was on, he rarely hit the putts squarely on the blade. That might explain his frustration over 2005, when he felt as though he hit the ball well enough to win just about every week, yet had only one trophy'the Booz Allen Classic'to show for it.
 
One win was the least I could get the way I played last year, he said.
 
Sergio Garcia
Segio Garcia ranked 196th on the PGA Tour in putting in 2005.
The short game is the only thing stopping him from a big year.
 
Garcia hopes to change that starting Thursday, when he joins 27 others in a winners-only field at the Mercedes Championships that officially starts the PGA Tour season. Its the first of 48 events on the PGA Tour schedule.
 
Hes one of only three players from the top 10 in the world ranking at Kapalua, largely because Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen decided to stay home and wait a few weeks before making their 06 debut.
 
And the 25-year-old Spaniard certainly has the experience to win on the Plantation Course, having won four years ago by making a 10-foot birdie putt in a playoff to beat David Toms.
 
That image of Garcia rolling a putt that disappears into the cup seems like a rarity now.
 
He hit the ball so well in 2005 that he led the tour in greens hit in regulation at 71.8 percent. Length has never been a problem, and Garcia averaged more than 300 yards to rank 10th.
 
But the statistic that stands out is putting -- 196th out of 202 players.
 
Garcia is sensitive when talking about the flat stick, because he realizes how much it cost him last year. Ask him about what needs to improve in his game, and he broadly mentions his short game. But he later said that his chipping is vastly improved, and no longer a problem.
 
The putting, he said, is the one that has been, you know, giving me a headache.
 
A putting tip from Adam Scott carried him to victory at Congressional the week before the U.S. Open, but nothing is more glaring than his collapse at the Wachovia Championship, where Garcia tied a PGA Tour record by blowing a six-shot lead in the final round. The only other player to do that was Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters.
 
Garcia started that round with a three-putt, missing his par from 30 inches. He was the first player to drop out of a three-man playoff when he three-putted the first extra hole.
 
Thats where the tape comes in.
 
Garcia said it was made by a friend at Sky Sports in Britain, and it showed that he struck his putts slightly off-center in big moments. Thats when he went to the two tees, for instant feedback.
 
As soon as you clip of the tees, you know youve done it wrong, he said. I feel like Im finally getting over it. My strike is better, Im hitting the ball more consistently in the middle of the club face. Ive just got to go out there and by seeing these good putts, believe Im going to make them.
 
Stuart Appleby is the two-time defending champion at Kapalua, and he certainly had no trouble on the greens. The putting surfaces have been redone with a strain of grass that allows it to grow taller so it can be cut shorter, leaving greens that have been smoother.
 
Applebys only victory last year came at Kapalua. He rushed home to Australia where his American-born wife gave birth to a daughter, Ella.
 
A victory would allow Appleby to join Gene Littler (1955-57) as the only players to win this tournament three straight times. It was called the Tournament of Championship when Littler won three straight in Las Vegas.
 
I know what I have to do, Appleby said. I know how to play, I know what sort of golf is required to win here. Having Phil and Tiger not here, Retief, is a good thing for me. Maybe theyre a little scared.
 
Garcia is scared of no one. He simply needs to make putts.
 
Despite only one victory last year, he would hardly call 2005 a failure. He had eight finishes in the top 10, gave himself fleeting hope at the U.S. Open, a tie for fifth at the British Open.
 
And hes back at Kapalua, one of only eight players who returned from last years winners-only field.
 
Its more frustrating to play badly, like I did in 2003 when I was going through the swing changes, or maybe 2000, said Garcia, alluding to the only two seasons he failed to win since joining the PGA Tour. That to me is more frustrating than playing really well and maybe only winning once or twice, because at least you see youre giving yourself chances.
 
The most horrendous thing is seeing that you dont have a chance.
 
Garcia is expecting to have several opportunities this year. The key is to do something with them.
 
If I can manage the short game, he said, then it could be a huge year.
 
Related links:
  • TV Airtimes

  • Full Coverage - Mercedes Championship
  • Getty Images

    Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 5:06 pm

    DOHA, Qatar – Eddie PepperellGregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

    Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.

    One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

    Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.


    Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters


    Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.

    Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.

    He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.

    ''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.

    ''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.

    ''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.

    ''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”

    Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.

    ''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.

    ''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''

    Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.

    Getty Images

    Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

    By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

    Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


    Getty Images

    Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

    The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

    How to watch:

    Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

    Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET

    Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET


    Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

    Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

    Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.


    Notables in the field:

    Tiger Woods

    • Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

    • Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

    • Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.


    Rickie Fowler

    • The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

    • Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

    • On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 


    Rory McIlroy

    • It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

    • McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

    • Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

    Getty Images

    Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

    By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

    CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

    Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

    ''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

    ''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''


    Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


    Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

    Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

    ''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

    Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

    Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

    ''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

    She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

    Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.