In Search of Sergio Garcia

By Brian HewittMay 11, 2008, 4:00 pm
Diogenes was the biographer of the great Greek philosophers. According to legend, he wandered the countryside, carrying a lantern, in search of an honest man.
 
I dont even have a flashlight. And Im just sitting here at my laptop.
 
But Ive been searching for the real Sergio Garcia.
 
And I can report he has been found. At least for now.
 
Actually, I want to believe, for a lot of reasons, that it was Garcia, not the rest of us, who re-discovered his golfing self Sunday at the wind-blown PLAYERS. Thats where he beat the pertinacious Paul Goydos, the driest sense of humor in the game, on the first hole of a sudden death playoff.
 
A lot of hard work, Garcia said when it was over. And a lot of self-doubt erased. At least for now. Mostly because of putting.
 
Garcia one-putted seven of the last 14 greens Sunday, including a 6-footer on the 72d hole that punched his ticket to the playoff. And it was enough to silence a posse of critics. At least for now.
 
Prior to Sunday at the Stadium Course of the TPC at Sawgrass, I was wondering.
 
Was Garcia, the gifted golfing imp who burst onto the international golf scene in his late teens and lit up the 1999 Ryder matches like a firecracker?
 
Or was he the puzzling enigma'redundancy intended'who overshot the first green Sunday at The PLAYERS and missed a 5-foot comebacker for par?
 
Was the 28-year-old Spaniard the precocious short game wizard who finished fourth in putting on the PGA TOUR in 2000?
 
Or was he the tortured soul who ranked 158th in putting at the start of the week and 170th in 3-putt avoidance?
 
Was he the improved putter who ranked 22d from 10 to 15 feet this year when he arrived at Ponte Vedra Beach?
 
Or was he the demonized figure who showed up ranked 169th, according to Shotlink, on putts from four to eight feet?
 
Was Garcia, the dashing young man in the tuxedo japing James Bond in those expensively-produced TV commercials?
 
Or was he the guy his critics perceived to be a whiny brat, a perception bolstered last year by a post-round interview after finishing second at the Open Championship in which he suggested that bad breaks happen to him more than others?
 
Was Sergio the crisp, but sometimes-wild ball striker who ranked 140th in TOUR driving accuracy earlier this month?
 
Or was he the machine who led the PLAYERS field in fairways hit through 54 holes prompting NBCs Johnny Miller to call him a driving genius?
 
Was he the guy who blazed to a third round 65 late last month at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship?
 
Or was he the guy who showed up the next day and promptly spilled six shots to par over the first five holes?
 
Was Garcia the gallant pursuer who finished 67-66 on the weekend at last years PLAYERS, finishing second just two back of winner Phil Mickelson?
 
Or was Garcia the Sunday disappointer who trailed eventual winner Stephen Ames by a single shot after 54 holes at the 2006 PLAYERS only to sky to a final round 78 and freefall into a miserable tie for 14th?
 
Ive watched a lot of golf for a lot of years. And I dare say I dont confuse as easily as I did when I was younger. But I was thoroughly perplexed in the matter of Sergio Garcia and what direction his golfing future was headed.
 
Sunday at The PLAYERS he began the day, in the penultimate twosome, three shots behind 54-hole leader Goydos. It was gusty and a lot of the smart money thought that would play right into Garcias hands because his ball-striking is so sound.
 
They were correct. But the principal reason was the putter that Garcia wielded like a sword straight out of something dreamed up by Cervantes.
 
So now the monkey that had taken up residence on Garcias back has moved out. For now.
 
Was Sergio Garcia the bright young talent that won six times on TOUR while still in his mid-20s? Or was he the disappearing act who hadnt won in the States since the 2005 Booz Allen Classic?
 
For now, he is back to being the former.
 
And the next time somebody suggests he is the best player never to have won a major championship, he can smile and take it as a compliment instead of bristling and taking it as an insult.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.