Sergio Garcia shares opening-round lead at The Barclays

By Doug FergusonAugust 27, 2009, 4:00 pm
The Barclays JERSEY CITY, N.J. ' Seven days ago, Sergio Garcia wasnt even sure if he would be eligible to play in The Barclays for the start of the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedEx Cup.
 
Suddenly, he has a splendid view from the top.
 
Garcia took another important step toward recovering from a troublesome season Thursday with a 6-under 65 at Liberty National for a share of the lead with Paul Goydos and Steve Marino.
 
Phil Mickelson at Liberty National
Liberty National member Phil Mickelson opened with a 1-under 70. (Getty Images)
We are getting back into it, Garcia said. Last week was nice. It was good to see ourselves getting that feeling of being out there trying to win a tournament and getting the juices flowing a little bit. Were just looking forward to hopefully finishing the year well here, keep this good momentum going.
 
At a different venue, Garcia stayed the course. He is a two-time winner of this tournament, both times at tree-lined Westchester. On a track with intimidating views inside the ropes and gorgeous vistas of Manhattan, he wound up in a familiar spot.
 
In some respects, so did Tiger Woods.
 
The Barclays is the only tournament Woods has played at least three times without finishing in the top 10. He shot a 70.
 
Most players would have taken such a score when they first saw Liberty National. The course played significantly shorter, however, with five tees moved forward, and it showed in the scoring. Nearly half the field was at par or better, and some two dozen players shot in the 60s.
 
Goydos ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch starting with the 16th hole, which he attributed to great putting, solid wedge play, and the PGA Tour rules staff for being gentle with hole locations and some forward tees.
 
In theory, you have 125 of the best players on the PGA Tour here this week, someone is going to shoot a low round every day, Goydos said. Today was my chance.
 
Marino seized on his opportunity, too, getting to 7 under until a bogey on his last hole.
 
They were one shot ahead of a group that included Charley Hoffman, who stumbled in by missing a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 8 and having to save bogey with an 8-foot putt on his final hole.
 
Y.E. Yang, in his first tournament since taking down Woods in the final round to win the PGA Championship, had a 71.
 
Woods looked solid in his return to The Barclays for the first time in six years, until he lost some control toward the end. Poor tee shots took away easy birdie chances on a pair of par 5s late in his round, and another one led to his lone bogey at No. 7.
 
Woods declined interview requests, telling PGA Tour officials he was going to the chipping area.
 
Youve got to make hay on the par 5s here, Woods said in a brief interview with XM Radio. You dont get too many opportunities around this place, and I only made one birdie on the par 5s.
 
He probably would have taken a 70 after his first time around Liberty National, a course that has received scant praise from the players this week. The best anyone has said about the course designed by Tom Kite and Bob Cupp is that it is hard.
 
Its a long, hard golf course with difficult greens, Goydos said. I dont think Tom Kite was thinking, Lets see how easy I can make this course. I dont think that was his mindset.
 
Still, it helped that the hole locations were accessible, and the course wasnt as long as its 7,419 yards. The biggest difference was the 18th, where Woods turned to the right, stopped when he couldnt find the tee markers, then marched 50 yards forward.
 
Someone around here is smart, Zach Johnson said under his breath.
 
Phil Mickelson, a member at Liberty National, made four bogeys in a five-hole stretch around the turn, the meatiest part of the course. He bounced back for a 70.
 
The biggest rally, however, belonged to the 29-year-old Garcia.
 
He opened his year with a couple of top 10s in Abu Dhabi and Qatar on the European Tour. The rest of the season has been a letdown, consumed by poor play and the breakup with Morgan Norman, the daughter of Greg Norman.
 
Garcia tied for 10th at the U.S. Open, his only top 10 for a seven-month stretch until he tied for fourth last week in Greensboro, N.C., a tournament he only played to make sure he got into the playoffs.
 
He showed quickly that might be more than just a good week. Garcia ran off four birdies on the back nine (he started at No. 10), twice making birdie putts in the 15-foot range. His best shot came on the third hole, a 9-iron from 138 yards into a breeze that was the proper distance on a hole where it can be tough to get it close.
 
Then came the cheers, with consecutive wedges that danced around the cup and set up tap-in birdies.
 
Its obviously very nice, after last week and playing well and being up there all week in contention, to open this tournament with a good, solid round, Garcia said. Dont be deceived by the scores. Its not an easy course. Thats important. And hopefully, we can go out there tomorrow and play another solid round.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - The Barclays
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

    Getty Images

    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

    Getty Images

    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

    Getty Images

    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”