Same Ol Story Garcia Again Comes Up Lame

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship HOYLAKE, England -- Sergio Garcia watched the ball drop into the cup -- finally! -- and thrust both arms skyward.
 
Unfortunately for the fiery Spaniard, his birdie at the 12th hole came far too late to make any difference.
 
By then, he was just the guy with a really good view of Tiger Woods on the way to another British Open title.
 
Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia could do little except watch playing partner Tiger Woods roll to his 11 major title.
Garcia's hopes of winning his first major championship were crushed Sunday before he even got to the back nine at Royal Liverpool. A couple of three-putt bogeys to get things started. A pair of errant iron shots leading to two more bogeys.
 
He made the turn at 4 over and with no chance of catching Woods,
 
'It's a shame,' Garcia said. 'That's the way it goes sometimes.'
 
It usually goes like that for Garcia, who has yet to win a major despite enormous talent that was all too apparent when, as a 19-year-old, he finished one stroke behind Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship.
 
No one figured he'd still be without a title seven years later. But a shaky putter -- there are already whispers around the clubhouse that he's got a bad case of the yips -- was all too apparent as he squandered what may have been his best chance yet.
 
Garcia was coming off a 7-under 65 Saturday that left him one stroke off the lead and put him in the final group with Woods. He showed up in a bright yellow outfit -- 'here comes the banana,' one fan said mockingly -- that was a striking contrast to Woods' usual Sunday red.
 
Right away, it was clear this wasn't going to be Garcia's day. At No. 1, he left his first putt short of the cup and needed a testy 5-footer just to save par. Things got worse at the next two holes, where Garcia missed from 6 and 4 feet for back-to-back bogeys.
 
Suddenly, he was three strokes behind the greatest closer in golf, his shoulders slumping as he sensed another chance slipping away.
 
Garcia did make a couple of birdies on the back side and rolled in an eagle putt at No. 16 to finish at 73. His 11-under 277 was seven strokes behind Woods in a tie for fifth.
 
'I had a couple of three-putts to start with when I thought I hit good putts,' Garcia said. 'Unfortunately, they didn't go in. And nothing seemed to go my way. I hit a pretty good drive on 5 and it just goes in the bunker. From then on, it was a little uphill.'
 
Garcia missed the green to the right with his approach at No. 8 and couldn't get up and down. Ditto at the ninth, where he put his second shot into a pot bunker along the front right side of the green and watched another par-saving putt slide wide of the cup.
 
'At least I came back nicely, and that's important,' Garcia said. 'I'm a bit sad but not disappointed.'
 
He called it an encouraging performance since this year has been a bit of a struggle. He insisted that his play Sunday was lot better than his score. But those both sounded like convenient rationalizations to mask his disappointment.
 
'I take a lot of positive things from this tournament,' Garcia insisted. 'I felt really good this week. Today, I had so many good putts. I can't even count how many good putts I hit that didn't want to go in. They just slipped out, or over the edge, a huge lip out at 14.
 
'That's the way it is. Just keep working.'
 
Maybe it's time to work on a different approach. Garcia played in the last group with Woods at Torrey Pines earlier this year, shot 40 on the front side and wound up in a tie for eighth. With much more on the line, this one had a similar feel.
 
Garcia insisted that he wasn't intimidated by the world's No. 1 golfer.
 
'I guess you can say it's a little bit difficult, but I felt calm today,' he said. 'I probably felt the best I've ever felt in a major with my putting. He just played very solid and stuck to his game plan. He putted lights out. When you putt that well on these difficult greens, you can't do anything.'
 
While both Garcia and Woods repeatedly admonished camera-clicking fans, the Spaniard had no complaints at the end.
 
'It was an unbelievable crowd,' Garcia said. 'I was getting bigger cheers than Tiger at some of the holes, and that was amazing for me to experience. That's why this is my favorite event.'
 
But, as they walked off the green at 18, it was Woods holding the claret jug.
 
All Garcia could do was ponder his next chance to win a major, which comes next month in the PGA Championship -- the same tournament and same course where he almost won seven years ago, thrilling fans with his youthful exuberance and naive bravado.
 
'I'm happy, because if you had told me I was going to play this well here about two months ago, I probably would have said you were a bit crazy.' he said. 'I'm looking forward to Medinah -- and now even more because I feel my game is coming along.'
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - 135th Open Championship
  • Course Tour - Royal Liverpool
  • Full Coverage - 135th Open Championship
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

    Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

    By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

    Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

    The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

    "The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

    He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).


    Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship


    Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

    “Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

    Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

    Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

    Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

    The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy gets back on track

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

    There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

    He is well ahead of schedule.

    Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

    “Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

    To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

    And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

    Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

    “I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

    The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

    The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

    But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

    Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

    Everything in his life is lined up.

    Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

    Getty Images

    Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

    Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

    There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


    Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


    Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

    The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

    Getty Images

    Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

    By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

    Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

    Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

    It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

    While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.