Young Garcia Getting Back on Track

By Associated PressMay 17, 2004, 4:00 pm
IRVING, Texas -- Still one of the youngest players in golf, Sergio Garcia has a hard time believing the Byron Nelson Championship was the five-year anniversary of his professional debut on the PGA Tour.
He was 19 when he showed up in Dallas, without a care in the world or even a driver's license. Garcia captured the hearts of the Texas gallery by attacking every pin, smiling at every pretty girl and saying all the right things. He wound up in a tie for third that year, and the best seemed to be right around the corner.
- Two victories on the European tour as a rookie.
- A showdown with Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship, including that shot he gouged out of a tree root and chased up the 16th fairway at Medinah.
- One of the European stars in the Ryder Cup at Brookline, where he became the most celebrated 19-year-old at The Country Club since Francis Ouimet.
Five years later, he is still trying to establish himself as a legitimate star.
Garcia took an important step Sunday by winning the Byron Nelson Championship with tremendous shotmaking, average putting and not much effort in the sudden-death playoff.
After closing with a 1-over 71 - the first player in 11 years at that tournament to win with a final round over par - Garcia only had to two-putt from 30 feet on the first extra hole as Dudley Hart and Robert Damron fell apart.
'A couple of breaks here and there throughout the tournament are huge,' Garcia said. 'I just waited for them to happen, and fortunately enough happened this week.'
It was his fourth PGA Tour victory, all of them against strong fields. The 64 world-ranking points moved him to No. 3 in the Ryder Cup standings in Europe, and he is a lock to play on his third team in September at Oakland Hills.
Some might have expected more out of Garcia by now, himself included.
'Definitely, I would have liked to have been a little better, the way I started,' Garcia said. 'When I turned pro, of course you hope for the best, but you don't know what to expect. I definitely would have been happy the way things are now. But you know, we're never satisfied. We always want more. Sometimes, maybe we get a bit too greedy.'
When Garcia turned pro, David Duval was No. 1 and Woods was just starting to dial in on a revamped swing that would take him to unprecedented heights in golf, particularly in the majors.
Garcia, who once rose as high as No. 4 in the ranking, couldn't keep up. Before long, the attention shifted to other young players, such as 23-year-old Adam Scott of Australia, who won The Players Championship in March.
There have been other growing pains for Garcia.
His charm lost some of its shine when he kicked off his shoe in disgust after slipping on a shot, nearly hitting a tournament official in the World Match Play Championship in England. He blamed a playoff loss to Aaron Baddeley in Australia on a rules official out to get him.
Even last month, despite playing the final 12 holes at Augusta National in 8 under par to shoot 66 and finish in a tie for fourth at the Masters, he pouted in Butler's Cabin during an interview with Dick Enberg, and later with reporters.
'When we're playing well, we're the best,' he said. 'And even if we're playing well and things are not going our way, we can be shocking. So, it's nice to see how fair you guys are.'
Garcia later attributed his mood at the Masters to being away from his home in Spain too long.
Most of it was simply frustration at not being able to get much out of his game.
Garcia changed his swing more than a year ago, which attributed to his drop to No. 95 on the PGA Tour money list last year. He reduced the lag in his swing so that he wouldn't have to rely so much on timing, particularly when the pressure was high on Sunday afternoon.
It started to come together about six months ago at the American Express Championship, and he has been waiting for everything to fall in place.
All that's holding him back now is his putting.
Garcia said his two-shot lead going into the final round should have been larger, and he could have avoided a playoff on the TPC at Las Colinas by making a fraction of the numerous birdie putts he faced inside 15 feet.
'It's such a thin line between feeling like you're going to make it and feeling a bit shaky,' he said. 'My confidence with my putting is not as good as it was, but my confidence with the long game, it's miles better. I know what I have to do around the course, and that comes from having confidence in yourself and in your swing.'
Garcia is playing Colonial this week, but the real measure will come in the U.S. Open next month at Shinnecock Hills. The 24-year-old Spaniard has performed well in the majors, the only player to finish in the top 10 in all four of them two years ago. He played in the final pairing with Woods two years ago at the U.S. Open, finishing fourth.
'I'm just hoping to keep it going,' he said. 'I still have three great tournaments to come, and I'm going to try to keep doing well in those.'
Related Links:
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    Watch: Daly makes an ace at the Chubb Classic

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 9:01 pm

    John Daly won't walk from the Chubb Classic with the trophy, but he certainly deserves recogition for his Sunday scorecard, which came complete with a hole-in-one.

    Daly aced the 154-yard par-3 16th on the Talon Course at TwinEagles, when his ball carried the froont bunker and tracked right to the hole.

    Two holes later, Daly signed for a final-round 67 that included four birdies, three bogeys and two eagles, which both in the span of four holes on the back nine.

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    Gustafson shares stuttering success video

    By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 8:31 pm

    Sophie Gustafson shared a breakthrough Sunday morning on YouTube.

    Gustafson, a five-time LPGA winner and 16-time Ladies European Tour winner, shared her news in a 4-minute and 15-second video.

    She did so without stuttering.

    And that’s the nature of her breakthrough, something she is sharing in hopes that it will help others who stutter.

    “I’m certainly not perfect, and the next time you see me, I am going to stutter, there is no question about that,” she says in the video. “But I am excited, because I am going in the right direction, and I believe I have found the solution that works for me.”

    For someone who has struggled with stuttering all of her life, Gustafson has touched so many with her ability to communicate. She has entertained her legion of Twitter followers with her sense of humor. She also has written articles.

    Back in 2011, Gustafson touched Golf Channel viewers when she opened up about her stuttering in an interview that was aired during the Solheim Cup. Her courage in sharing her challenges was recognized the following year, when the Golf Writers Association of American presented her its Ben Hogan Award, an honor bestowed to someone who has persevered through physical ailment. She also won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award that year.

    Gustafson, 44, left the game as a player three years ago to become Beth Allen’s full-time caddie on the Ladies European Tour. She explains in the YouTube video that she is making her breakthrough with the help of Steve Gill, a team member with Tony Robbins’ life and business strategy group.

    Gustafson said Gill led her to breathing, meditation and incantation exercises that have helped her since they began working together eight months ago.

    “If you know anyone who stutters, tell them to breathe in and then speak,” Gustafson said. “I tried it the other way for 44 years, and it's just not working.” 

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    J.Y. Ko wins her first start as an official LPGA member

    By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 4:09 pm

    Make way for Jin Young Ko.

    The South Koreans keep delivering one new star after another to the LPGA ranks, and they aren’t going to disappoint this year.

    Ko made some history Sunday winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, closing with a 3-under-par 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She became the first player in 67 years to win her LPGA debut as a tour member. Beverly Hanson (1951) is the only other player to do so.

    Hyejin Choi, an 18-year-old who just turned pro, is yet another emerging South Korean star looking to crack the LPGA ranks. She finished second Sunday, three shots back after closing with a 67. She played on a sponsor exemption. She is already No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and likely to move up when the newest rankings are released. Had Choi won Sunday, she could have claimed LPGA membership for the rest of this season.

    Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

    Ko, 22, moved herself into early position to try to follow in Sung Hyun Park’s footsteps. Park won the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards last year. She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to do so. Lopez did it in 1978. Park shared the Player of the Year honor with So Yeon Ryu.

    Ko said winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award is a goal, but she didn’t come into the year setting her sights on Player of the Year.

    “I haven’t thought about that yet,” she said.

    Ko finished at 14 under overall.

    It was a good week for rookies. Australia’s Hannah Green (69) finished third.

    Ko claimed LPGA membership this year based on her victory as a non-member at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s already a star in South Korea, having won 10 times on the Korean LPGA Tour. She is No. 20 in the world and, like Choi, poised to move up when the newest world rankings are released.

    Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko closed with an even par 72, finishing tied for 19th in her 2018 debut. She is in next week’s field at the Honda LPGA Thailand.

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    Luiten takes title at inaugural Oman Open

    By Associated PressFebruary 18, 2018, 3:25 pm

    MUSCAT, Oman - Joost Luiten of the Netherlands won the inaugural Oman Open on Sunday to break a title drought of nearly 17 months.

    The 32-year-old Dutchman shot a 4-under 68 to finish on 16-under 272, two shots ahead of his friend, England's Chris Wood (69).

    It was Luiten's sixth European Tour title and the first since the 2016 KLM Open.

    Frenchman Julien Guerrier (71) virtually assured that he would not have to go to qualifying school for the 12th time with a third-place finish after a 13-under 275.

    Luiten started with three birdies in his first four holes, but bogeys on the seventh and eighth set him back. On the back nine, he made three birdies, including a key one on the 16th, where he made a 30-foot putt.

    ''It feels great. I didn't know what to expect when I came here but to play a course like this which is in great condition - it's a great technical golf course as well - it was beyond my expectation and to hold the trophy is even better,'' said Luiten, who is expected to rise to No. 65 in the new rankings on Monday.

    ''I had a great start, that's what I was hoping for. I hit some nice ones in close and rolled in a couple of nice putts and that gets you in the right position, where you want to be.

    Full-field scores from the NBO Oman Golf Classic

    ''Unfortunately, I had a couple of bogeys as well on the front nine, but I recovered from that with a couple of nice birdies on the back nine and it was a good battle with Woody.''

    Playing one group ahead, England's Wood was right in the mix and tied with Luiten at 15-under when their fortunes went in opposite directions almost at the same time. On the 17th hole, Wood drove his tee shot into the hazard left and could do no more than chip his ball out for a bogey. Luiten, meanwhile, drained his 30-footer birdie putt on the 16th for a two-shot swing.

    Recovering his form after a series of disappointments, Wood was let down by the loss and said: ''It's golf isn't it? You are never happy.

    ''I played poorly for six or eight months. Would have never thought I would have put myself into contention. And when you do, you feel gutted when you don't win. I am pretty down really, but in the grand scheme of things, when I reflect after a couple of days, I will think it is a big step in the right direction.''

    Luiten's win also got him into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai, securing him a start at the WGC-Mexico Championship in two weeks.

    Frenchman Alexander Levy (70), who was hoping to finish in the top five to push into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai and grab the WGC-Mexico spot himself, did manage a joint fourth place at 11 under, but Luiten's victory kept him 11th.

    The European Tour next moves to Doha for the Qatar Masters starting on Thursday.