Sergio Gives Oak Tree Identity All Its Own

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 PGA ChampionshipMEDINAH, Ill -- Their eyes scan from tree to tree, ultimately homing in on what seems like a nondescript old oak.
 
And then, spectators ask: 'Is this the 'Sergio Tree?''
 
Pebble Beach has its famed 18th hole. Augusta National has the Eisenhower Tree. And Medinah Country Club has an oak about eight feet to the right of the fairway near a bend and a slope along the 453-yard 16th hole.
 
It is about 100 years old and showing its age, with several large scars where there were branches. It stands about 45 feet tall, its trunk about three feet in diameter.
 
There's nothing unusual about it except its place in golf lore, because this tree was the site of Sergio Garcia's improbable shot during the final round of the 1999 PGA Championship.
 
Who can forget, especially with the PGA back at Medinah.
 
'A lot of the shots have changed since 1999,' Garcia said after Thursday's first round.
 
Earlier in the week, he revisited his past when he took a look at the old tree.
 
'I remember three or four weeks ago, before coming in here, they were telling me that the tree was struggling a little bit and they've had to overseed that little spot because everybody's been hitting from it,' he said.
 
As a 19-year-old competing in his second major as a pro, Garcia grabbed the lead after the first round in 1999 but trailed Tiger Woods by as many as five strokes on the final day before making a charge.
 
Down two on the 16th tee, Garcia seemed to knock himself out of contention when the ball sailed wide right and settled between the roots of the tree, 189 yards from the pin and near the bottom of a steep slope. The green was hidden.
 
Instead, he -- and the tree -- earned a spot in history.
 
Garcia grabbed his 6-iron and closed his eyes as he made contact. Then, he sprinted, jumped and scissors-kicked as the ball somehow made its way to the green.
 
It was a memorable shot, a memorable celebration.
 
Garcia saved par, but Woods took the title by one stroke for his second win at a major. He's going for No. 12 this week while Garcia, with 11 top-10 finishes, is still searching for his first.
 
Seven years later at No. 16, hole marshal Robert Bradshaw hears the question 'about once every four, five minutes.'
 
One spectator wonders why there's no sign marking the tree. Hey, Arnold Palmer got a plaque at Royal Birkdale for his wondrous shot nearly 40 years earlier, when he uprooted a shrub with a 6-iron.
 
Another fan, Ron Newman, wants to know the distance from the tee to the oak.
 
'Actually, it was even more (hectic) on the practice-round days,' Bradshaw says.
 
On those days, people asked if they could touch the tree. Bradshaw's answer: No.
 
'It would be nice to,' he says.
 
When he arrived at the course, Dudley Colton of Denver headed for the tree -- just like Garcia's shot. A national accounts manager for the Johns Manville insulation and roofing company, he's here with customers.
 
And he's in awe.
 
'This is probably like (seeing) Tiger Stadium or Yankee Stadium,' he says.
 
He looks at the tree, looks at the slope and shakes his head.
 
As impressive as Garcia's shot looks on TV, the view changes up close.
 
'It's more impressive,' Colton said. 'On TV, people don't see the elevation. They don't see everything he was faced with. It looked tough on TV. But to see it here, it just made it more incredible -- especially for a 19-year-old.'
 
Colton said he would take a drop rather than attempt a shot like that.
 
Ron Newman of nearby Elgin, Ill., said he would probably break his wrists if he tried, so he would punch the ball onto the fairway, instead.
 
Garcia was in contention at a major so he went for it. And after imitating a weekend golfer on his tee shot, he did something incredible.
 
Now, weekend golfers try to copy him. And a nondescript oak has an identity -- the 'Sergio tree.'
 
'People naturally want to go and try that shot, just for the heck of it,' course superintendent Tom Lively says. 'There are always people who have to do that.'
 
The ground around the oak takes a beating. Sometimes, a new patch of sod is needed because people keep chopping away.
 
But the tree itself? It's OK.
 
Lightning and wind damage killed some branches over the years, but overall, the old oak is healthy. Removing it was never a consideration.
 
'The leaves are trimmed and it looks great,' Lively said.
 
That shot simply looks daunting.
 
'It's probably half skill and half luck,' Newman's friend Tom McTavish says, before changing his mind. 'Probably 60 percent luck. If he was 29, he probably wouldn't have done it. He would have pitched it up, like everyone else. You're bulletproof when you're 19 -- at least that's what I always thought.'
 
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    Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

    Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

    Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

    Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

    McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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    Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

    By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

    Memo to the golf gods:

    If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

    Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

    It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

    With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

    It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

    We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

    We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

    Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


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    Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

    We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

    In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

    While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

    Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

    Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

    Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

    While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

    Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

    So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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    McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

    By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

    With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

    The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

    Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

    "I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

    McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

    But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

    "I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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    What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

    Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

    Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

    Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

    Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

    Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

    Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

    Ball: Titleist Pro V1x