Sergio All Alone in Youth Pursuit of Tiger

By Associated PressJanuary 31, 2006, 5:00 pm
SAN DIEGO -- Sergio Garcia squeezed his eyes shut and gouged a 6-iron out of the tree, then sprinted down the 16th fairway at Medinah in youthful pursuit of Tiger Woods.
 
That was the summer of '99 at the PGA Championship.
 
More than six years later, Garcia is still running after the world's No. 1 player and hasn't made up much ground. The latest opportunity came Sunday at Torrey Pines, where he played with Woods in the final group for the first time since the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.
 
He hooked his opening tee shot and made bogey. He blasted out over the lip of a fairway bunker and over the green at No. 2, making another bogey and sending Garcia to a 40 on the front nine. To his credit, Garcia hung around long enough to give himself a long eagle putt on the 18th hole to join the playoff at the Buick Invitational.
 
He wound up with a three-putt par and a 75.
 
There will be other chances, for no other reason than the 26-year-old Garcia is blessed with immense talent that should be enough to overcome a suspect putting stroke. But beating Woods when it counts -- and the 'Battle at Bighorn' doesn't -- remains a mental hurdle.
 
'What can you do?' Garcia said. 'I wanted to play well, there's no doubt about that. It's been a long week, a long trip from Abu Dhabi. I felt a little bit tired all week long, and unfortunately it caught up with me today. But that's all you can do, and go on to next week.'
 
That he failed to beat Woods from the final group is no disgrace.
 
Perhaps more alarming is that of players in their 20s, Garcia is one of the few making progress toward becoming a veritable star and one day dethroning Woods.
 
Only six players in their 20s have won at least two times on the PGA Tour, and three of those guys -- Ben Crane, Rory Sabbatini and Vaughn Taylor -- are a few months away from graduating to their 30s. For those who don't know much about Taylor, he is a sharp kid who hits it long and twice won the Reno-Tahoe Open opposite a World Golf Championship event.
 
Garcia has won six times on the PGA Tour, all of them on either strong courses (Westchester, Colonial) or against strong fields (Mercedes Championships, Byron Nelson Championship). His resume includes 10 victories overseas, and three appearances in the Ryder Cup before turning 25.
 
The only other young player in the elite category is Adam Scott, who won The Players Championship at 23 and has four trophies from the PGA Tour (although the tour doesn't recognize his 36-hole, playoff victory at Riviera).
 
What puts Garcia in a league of his own among young players is the majors. He has seven top 10s in the majors, and had a shot to win on the back nine in four of them. Scott, a 25-year-old from Australia, has one top 10 and only last year made the cut in all four majors for the first time.
 
Ben Curtis, for those keeping score, is the only player currently in his 20s to have won a major.
 
No doubt, it's getting harder to win on the PGA Tour with so much depth of talent, and with so many veterans hitting their stride in their late 30s and 40s, such as David Toms, Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry.
 
And it would be unfair to expect anyone to reach the bar set by Woods, who won 46 times and 10 majors in his 20s. Ditto for Phil Mickelson, who won 16 times in his 20s, or David Duval, who won 13 times and a major before turning 30. Those are special talents.
 
But the search continues for a young player who has the tools to challenge the best.
 
And while it might start with length, it sure doesn't end there.
 
Four weeks into the season -- hardly a good gauge -- seven of the top 10 players in driving distance are in their 20s, starting with Bubba Watson who is getting shamelessly promoted as the future of golf. Watson indeed might go on to do great things in the next few years, but if length was all that mattered, he probably would have reached the big leagues before he was 27.
 
Woods says the future of golf lies with players who are bigger, stronger and more athletic -- guys built like linebackers who can generate enormous club speed and have been taught the technical side of golf from an early age.
 
But a few minutes later, he was asked the difference between a great swing and a great game.
 
'You've got to have the guts to get it done,' Woods said. 'You can have a picture-perfect swing. You can put the club in every position. But can you pull the trigger when you have a 3-iron over water on the last hole when you need to make 3? Can you do it? That's when it comes down to, 'What do you have inside?'
 
'That's something you can't teach.'
 
Woods made that observation on the eve of the Buick Invitational. Five days later, Garcia had more than 3-iron over the water to the 18th green on the South Course. He needed a 3. And he hit the green.
 
He just didn't make the putt.
 
The problem Woods sees with most young players is they have one shot, one swing, one trajectory. He noted that golf balls don't allow for as much movement anymore, but they can still be shaped.
 
'I don't see the kids trying that,' he said.
 
One of the young players not cut out of the same cloth might be Ryan Moore, who doesn't have a coach, psychologist or nutritionist. He became the first player since Woods to earn his card without going to Q-school, although he has started this year by missing his first two cuts.
 
Meanwhile, the search goes on.
 
And while he had a Sunday to forget, it starts with Garcia.
 
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Day finishes strong, leads Aussie Open by one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 6:12 am

Jason Day birdied three of his final five holes to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand in Sydney:

Leaderboard: Day (-10), Lucas Herbert (-9), Jonas Blixt (-7), Matt Jones (-7), Cameron Smith (-6), Rhein Gibson (-5), Anthony Quayle (-5)

What it means: Day has a great shot at his first victory – in his final start – in 2017. It’s been a frustrating campaign for Day, who has dropped to 12th in the Official World Golf Ranking. A win this week, in his native Open, would be a huge boost as he embarks on the 2018 season.


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


Round of the day: Day’s 2-under 69 wasn’t the lowest of the day, but it was the most important. Day parred his first 13 holes before birdies on Nos. 14 and 15. He bogeyed the 17th, but finished with a birdie at the par-5 18th for the outright lead.

Best of the rest: Blixt’s 66 put him in position to win. Meanwhile, Japanese amateur Takumi Kanaya shot the low round of the day, a 6-under 65, to reach 4 under for the tournament.

Biggest disappointment: No one really blew it on Saturday, but Jordan Spieth was unable to make a move. His 1-under 70 has him eight shots off the lead. Herbert managed an even-par 71 but he had a two-stroke lead until an errant tee shot at the par-3 11th. Speaking of which …

Shot of the day: Not every Shot of the Day is a great shot. Herbert made a long birdie putt on the eighth and was two clear of the field through 10 holes. But he hit his tee shot long at the 11th and was not able to find it. He had to re-tee, made double bogey and lost his advantage. He’s now chasing a major champion in the final round.

Spieth stalls on Moving Day at Australian Open

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 25, 2017, 4:30 am

Moving Day? Not so much for Jordan Spieth in Round 3 of the Emirates Australian Open.

Spieth, the defending champion and also a winner in 2014, continued to struggle with his putter, shooting 1-under 70 on Saturday at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney.

“I was leaving them short yesterday and today it was kind of misreading, over-reading. I missed a lot of putts on the high side – playing wind or more break,” he said. “I just really haven’t found a nice marriage between line and speed to get the ball rolling.”


Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


The world No. 2 started the day eight off the pace and was unable to make a charge. He had three birdies and two bogeys, including a 4 at the par-5 finishing hole.

Spieth praised his ball-striking in the wind-swept conditions, but lamented his putting, which has hampered him throughout the week.

“Ball-striking’s been fantastic. Just gotta get the putts to go,” he said.

Spieth, who is scheduled to compete in next week’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, is still holding out hope for a third title in four years at this event. He fired a brilliant 63 in very windy conditions to prevail in ’14.

“Tomorrow is forecasted as even windier than today so you can still make up a lot of ground,” he said. “A few years ago I shot a final round that was a nice comeback and anything like that tomorrow can still even be enough to possibly get the job done.”

South Korean LPGA stars lead KLPGA team

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2017, 10:32 pm

South Korea’s LPGA team of all-stars took the early lead Friday on the Korean LPGA Tour in a team event featuring twice as much star power as this year’s Solheim Cup did.

Eight of the world’s top 20 players are teeing it up in the ING Life Champions Trophy/ Inbee Park Invitational in Gyeongju. There were only four players among the top 20 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings when the United States defeated Europe in Des Moines, Iowa.

Park led the LPGA team to a 3 ½-to-2 ½ lead on the first day.

Park, who has been recuperating from a back injury for most of the second half of this season, teamed with Jeongeun Lee5 to defeat Hye Jin Choi and Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4, in the lead-off four-ball match.

So Yeon Ryu and Park, former world No. 1s and LPGA Rolex Player of the Year Award winners, will be the marquee pairing on Saturday. They will lead off foursomes against Ji Young Kim and Min Sun Kim.

Nine of the 11 South Koreans who won LPGA events this year are competing. Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim are the only two who aren’t.

The fourball results:

LPGA’s Inbee Park/ Jeongeun Lee5 def. Hye Jin Choi/Ji Hyun Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Mirim Lee/Amy Yang def.  Ji Hyun Oh/Min Sun Kim, 3 and 1.

LPGA’s M.J. Hur/Mi Hyang Lee halved Ji Hyun Kim/Ji Young Kim.

KLPGA’s Ha Na Jang/Sun Woo Bae def. Sei Young Kim/Hyo Joo Kim, 5 and 4.

LPGA’s Na Yeon Choi/Jenny Shin halved Jin Young Ko/Da Yeon Lee

LPGA’s In Gee Chun/Eun Hee Ji halved Jeongeun Lee6/Char Young Kim.

NOTE: The KPGA uses numerals after a player’s name to distinguish players with the exact same name.

 

Cut Line: Lyle faces third bout with cancer

By Rex HoggardNovember 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

In this week’s holiday edition, Cut Line is thankful for the PGA Tour’s continued progress on many fronts and the anticipation that only a Tiger Woods return can generate.

Made Cut

The Fighter. That was the headline of a story Cut Line wrote about Jarrod Lyle following his second bout with cancer a few years ago, so it’s both sad and surreal to see the affable Australian now bracing for a third fight with leukemia.

Lyle is working as an analyst for Channel 7’s coverage of this week’s Emirates Australian Open prior to undergoing another stem cell transplant in December.

“I’ve got a big month coming,” Lyle said. “I’m back into hospital for some really heavy-duty treatment that’s really going to determine how things pan out for me.”

Twice before things have panned out for Lyle. Let’s hope karma has one more fight remaining.

Changing times. Last season the PGA Tour introduced a policy to add to the strength of fields, a measure that had long eluded officials and by most accounts was a success.

This season the circuit has chosen to tackle another long-standing thorn, ridiculously long pro-am rounds. While there seems little the Tour can do to speed up play during pro-am rounds, a new plan called a 9&9 format will at least liven things up for everyone involved.

Essentially, a tournament hosting a pro-am with four amateurs can request the new format, where one professional plays the first nine holes and is replaced by another pro for the second nine.

Professionals will have the option to request 18-hole pro-am rounds, giving players who limit practice rounds to just pro-am days a chance to prepare, but otherwise it allows Tour types to shorten what is an admittedly long day while the amateurs get a chance to meet and play with two pros.

The new measure does nothing about pace of play, but it does freshen up a format that at times can seem tired, and that’s progress.

Tweet of the week: @Love3d (Davis Love III‏) “Thanks to Dr. Flanagan (Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center) for the new hip and great care! Can’t wait to get back to (the PGA Tour).”

Love offered the particularly graphic tweet following hip replacement surgery on Tuesday, a procedure that he admitted he’d delayed because he was “chicken.”

The surgery went well and Love is on pace to return to the Tour sometime next spring. As for the possibility of over-sharing on social media, we’ll leave that to the crowd.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Distance control. The Wall Street Journal provided the octagon for the opening blows of a clash that has been looming for a long time.

First, USGA executive director Mike Davis told The Journal that the answer to continued distance gains may be a restricted-flight golf ball with an a la carte rule that would allow different organizations, from the Tour all the way down to private clubs, deciding which ball to use.

“You can’t say you don’t care about distance, because guess what? These courses are expanding and are predicted to continue to expand,” Davis said. “The impact it has had has been horrible.”

A day later, Wally Uihlein, CEO of Acushnet, which includes the Titleist brand, fired back in a letter to The Journal, questioning among other things how distance gains are putting a financial burden on courses.

“The only people that seem to be grappling with advances in technology and physical fitness are the short-sighted golf course developers and the supporting golf course architectural community who built too many golf courses where the notion of a 'championship golf course' was brought on line primarily to sell real estate,” Uihlein wrote.

For anyone paying attention the last few years, this day was inevitable and the likely start of what will be a drawn out and heated process, but Cut Line’s just not sure anyone wins when it’s over.

Tiger, take II. Tiger Woods’ return to competition next week at the Hero World Challenge was always going to generate plenty of speculation, but that hyperbole reached entirely new levels this week as players began giving personal accounts of the new and improved 14-time major champion.

“I did talk to him, and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years,’” Day said as he prepared for the Australian Open. “If he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.”

Rickie Fowler added to the frenzy when he was asked this month if the rumors that Woods is driving the ball by him, by 20 to 30 yards by some reports, are true?

“Oh, yeah,” he told Golf.com. “Way by.”

Add to all this a recent line that surfaced in Las Vegas that Woods is now listed at 20-1 to win a major in 2018, and it seems now may be a good time for a restraint.

Golf is better with Woods, always has been and always will be, but it may be best to allow Tiger time to find out where his body and game are before we declare him back.


Missed Cut

Searching for answers. Twelve months ago, Hideki Matsuyama was virtually unstoppable and, regardless of what the Official World Golf Ranking said, arguably the best player on the planet.

Now a year removed from that lofty position, which featured the Japanese star finishing either first or second in six of his seven starts as the New Year came and went, Matsuyama has faded back to fifth in the world and on Sunday finished fifth, some 10 strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka, at the Dunlop Phoenix.

“That hurt,” Matsuyama told the Japan Times. “I don’t know whether it’s a lack of practice or whether I lack the strength to keep playing well. It seems there are many issues to address.”

Since his last victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Matsuyama has just two top-10 finishes on Tour and he ended his 2016-17 season with a particularly poor performance at the Presidents Cup.

While Matsuyama’s take seems extreme considering his season, there are certainly answers that need answering.