For Sergio Sundays Collapse a Stunning Turnaround
He was even more confident at his day job, building a six-shot lead at Quail Hollow going into the final round, certain that his struggles with the putter were almost over and his best golf was just around the corner.
All that changed in 19 holes.
Garcia made history for the wrong reason Sunday, matching the largest final-round collapse in PGA Tour history before making an early exit from the three-man playoff by missing a 6-foot par putt that never had a chance.
There was quiet shock in his voice, a numb expression on his freckled face as he spoke to a room full of reporters. He stared at his feet, looking up occasionally to answer a question or to glance at the television to see Vijay Singh outlast Jim Furyk on the fourth extra hole and claim a trophy everyone figured would belong to Garcia.
'It's one of those things,' Garcia said, a phrase he repeated five times in 10 minutes.
Garcia is only 25, way too young for this to be any kind of fork in a career long saddled with high expectations. The spotlight won't leave any time soon, because he is the defending champion at this week's Byron Nelson Championship.
'I've got to just relax until Thursday and get everything back in shape, and take the positives out of this week,' Garcia said. 'They say you learn more from your losses than from your wins. And I've got a lot from this week to learn.'
The positives aren't too hard to find.
No one hit the ball better at Quail Hollow, where the fairways were as crusty and firm as they have been anywhere this year on the PGA Tour. Garcia moved his ball with a slight draw or a gentle fade, whatever the hole required.
And while he joined four others in the record books for losing a six-shot lead in the final round - Greg Norman was the most recent at the 1996 Masters - Garcia was the only one who didn't shoot over par.
He shot an even-par 72, on a day where Singh and Furyk each closed with 66.
'He didn't play badly,' Singh said. 'He didn't shoot a high number or anything. We caught him. He's going to feel it a little bit, but not as bad as what Greg did during the Masters.'
It wasn't as bad as Bobby Cruikshank shooting an 80 to lose the 1928 Florida Open, or Hal Sutton closing with a 77 in the 1983 Anheuser-Busch Classic. The other player to blow a six-shot lead in the final round was Gay Brewer, who closed with a 73 in the 1969 Danny Thomas Diplomat Classic to pave the way for a Sunday charge by Arnold Palmer.
Norman closed with a 78 at Augusta National, turning a six-shot lead into a five-shot loss in a tournament that became a defining moment in his career.
Singh doesn't expect that to be the case with Garcia.
'Sometimes it's harder to play with a big lead,' Singh said. 'I've found that out myself. Instead of trying to win the golf tournament, you don't want to lose it. If guys are catching up ... you kind of start to get nervous.'
Garcia showed that on the first hole.
After running a slippery 8-footer for birdie some 30 inches by the cup, he decided to finish off the hole even though Furyk had an 6-footer for par. Garcia's simple par putt caught the lip.
'I think he just lost concentration,' Furyk said.
Then came an 8-foot birdie on the second hole that missed. He asked his caddie, Glenn Murray, to help read a 10-foot birdie putt on the fourth, but that didn't help. He missed another 10-footer for birdie on the fifth.
'I played awesome the first eight holes,' Garcia said. 'I should have been easily 3 or 4 under, and I was 1 (under). It was tough. To see that you hit it to 10 feet every time and you can't make a putt ... you know, it cost me.'
And even after Singh flubbed a chip that turned birdie into bogey on the par-5 15th, falling into a tie with Garcia, the Spaniard blew a chance to take control of the tournament. From 250 yards in the fairway, his 2-iron on the 15th stopped 6 feet from the hole. Garcia missed that putt, too, and had to settle for birdie.
Singh tried to cut through the tension during the first hole of the playoff, when all three players had the cup surrounded with testy par putts, ranging from Garcia at 6 feet to Furyk at just over 4 feet.
'I told the guys, 'Good, good, good. Let's go to the next tee box,'' Singh said.
They all laughed, although it was uneasy laughter from Garcia.
By the then, the fearless confidence was gone.
And after the putt slid below the cup, so was the tournament.
Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia
Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.
Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.
Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.
Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.
It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.
The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.
Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son
ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.
Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.
''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''
They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.
''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''
Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.
''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''
Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.
Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.
Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.
Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?
Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.
Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”
Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.
Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.