Garcia searching for enthusiasm in golf

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2011, 12:20 am

Transistions ChampionshipPALM HARBOR, Fla. – So much about Sergio Garcia looks the same as ever. So much about him is uncertain – mostly what’s in his heart.

Setting up over a shot, he slowly releases his fingers from the grip and carefully replaces them in just the right position, checking himself one last time before unleashing a swing that made him of the best ball-strikers in golf.

But when he missed the cut at the PGA Championship last August, the 31-year-old Spaniard took a 10-week break to see if he could rediscover his enthusiasm for golf.

Garcia returns to the PGA Tour for the first time in seven months at the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook, which starts Thursday. He played four times on the European Tour late last year after his break and had mixed results. He played three times on the European Tour during its Middle East swing and had more of the same.

“I definitely feel like I want to be out there,” Garcia said. “So that always helps.”

He has a long road in front of him. It was only two years ago that Garcia rose to No. 2 in the world and had a chance to replace Tiger Woods atop the world ranking. Since then, it has been a steady drop all the way to No. 85.

One reason he waited until the middle of March to play his first U.S. tour event was because of his ranking. He no longer was eligible for the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona for the top 64, or the Cadillac Championship last week at Doral for the top 50.

He’s in the Masters from winning The Players Championship three years ago.

Garcia attributes some of his malaise to splitting up two years ago with the daughter of Greg Norman, telling the Times of London later that year it was the first time he had ever truly been in love.

That’s about as far as Garcia goes in analyzing his passion for golf.

“It was a mix of things,” he said Wednesday after his pro-am round on the Copperhead course. “A couple of things off the golf course didn’t help. And then I just started playing not great. Knowing how I can play and what I’m capable of doing, I don’t like to settle for less.

“So I guess a mix of those things kind of pulled down a little bit,” he said. “But we are looking forward to it now.”

To what degree? Only he knows.

Garcia last won a tournament in the Castello Masters toward the end of the 2008 season. He missed the Ryder Cup last year for the first time in his career, although he was at Celtic Manor as a vice captain. Since then, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer have gone to No. 1, with Graeme McDowell, Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy poised to challenge for the top.

How badly does Garcia want to be part of that mix?

“To tell you the truth, I just want to be out there and just want to enjoy playing,” Garcia said. “And hopefully, just play better as I get on. Whatever happens, happens.”

He is part of a strong field at Innisbrook, which includes the No. 1 player for the first time since 2005. Kaymer will be playing in the opening two days with Bubba Watson and Nick Watney, who is coming off a big win last week at Doral.

Garcia is in another feature group with Matteo Manassero, the 17-year-old Italian whose career is similar to Garcia’s in so many ways. Manassero became the youngest British Amateur champion when he won at age 15. Two months later, he tied for 13th in the British Open at Turnberry while playing the first two rounds with Tom Watson.

Garcia first started playing the PGA Tour as a teenager who didn’t even have a driver’s license. Ditto for Manassero, who is still a year away from taking driving lessons in Italy.

Last year, Manassero became the youngest winner in European Tour history – winning on Garcia’s home course, of all things.

“I’ve always been a fan of him,” Manassero said. “He’s a great guy and he’s a fantastic golf player. And he’s had a bad moment, but definitely you can see – everybody can see – he’s coming out of this moment. I definitely want him to get back to winning golf tournaments and to get back as he was.”

Garcia tied for ninth in the Qatar Masters, then got thrown right into it a week later when he was paired with Woods, his old nemesis, in the final round at Dubai. Both struggled in the wind and tied for 20th.

“As you gain a bit of confidence, it kind of helps,” he said. “There’s nothing better than confidence for your mental game. When you are feeling confident, you don’t think about things. You just kind of do them. I think as we keep getting better and better, that will happen.”

Garcia is not in a big hurry to get back to where he feels he belongs – the elite in golf. By age 30, he already had 18 wins around the world and played on five Ryder Cup teams. He has been runner-up in three majors, including the PGA Championship at 19.

For a guy who is 31, Garcia must feel as though he’s been around forever.

Now, the goal is to feel like a kid again.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.