Garcia: At home in Ryder Cup and at Medinah

By Jason SobelSeptember 24, 2012, 4:10 pm

Two years ago, Sergio Garcia spent Ryder Cup week riding in a golf cart, his ear pressed to a walkie-talkie as he received updates from around the course. The juxtaposition was profound, a proven winner in the competition seemingly in the prime of his career, yet choosing a role traditionally left to players whose best years are behind them.

It leads to one simple question which doesn’t have a simple answer: Why?

Sure, the literal explanation is easy. Garcia wasn’t playing well and didn’t make the European team. This much we know from the numbers and statistics that tell the story of his decline during that time.

Ryder Cup: Teams | Articles | Videos | Pics | Social

But really, why? Why would a 30-year-old decide to watch his peers up close when he couldn’t join them? Why would a man with five Ryder Cup appearances and a 14-6-4 record elect to feel the pain of exclusion for an entire week?

To understand the answer to these questions, we must understand Garcia, which is often an unwieldy task. He has been an enigma for much of his career, bright-eyed and engaging at times, disillusioned and petulant at others.

On this topic, though, there are no blurred lines. Garcia loves this competition, thrives on it, feels it in his blood and in his bones. Failing to be a part of it was never an option. When he didn’t make the team, he found another way.

“It was hard, because I wasn’t able to hit any shots,” he recalls. “But it was fine. I enjoyed it, too. You know, it was a different role. I just tried to help the players as much as I could, so it was good fun. I think it was harder than playing it, though.”

We would have to peruse through the annals of Ryder Cup history to deduce whether Sergio Garcia was the youngest assistant captain ever. We would need to poll every candidate to figure out if he was the most disgruntled person to hold this position.

This much is sure, though: He was easily the most perplexing assistant to ever play that part.

Call it motivational, call it cathartic or call it just downright peculiar, but therein lies our answer to why he felt compelled to be present at Celtic Manor.

Sergio Garcia needs the Ryder Cup way more than the Ryder Cup needs him.

The two will be reunited this week, as Garcia makes his triumphant comeback to the European side after earning his way onto the roster once again. He returns a different man than the one left brooding in celebration two years ago, the piece to a team puzzle that never really fit.

Playing elite-level golf once again, Garcia finds himself fitting that puzzle perfectly now, helping to create an image that includes him with a more important role this time around that riding in a cart while holding a walkie-talkie.

“The Ryder Cup is huge, and to me, even more so,” he explains. “I’m very excited and I’m just hoping to feel good there and help my team as much as possible.”

It’s not only Garcia who is excited for this return. Much like his countryman Seve Ballesteros once did, Garcia lives for this competition – and his teammates understand the value of welcoming him back inside the ropes.

“I think it’s great,” says Luke Donald, who owns a 4-0-0 record when paired with Garcia. “Sergio is kind of synonymous with the Ryder Cup. He gets very excited, he has a lot of passion, he has a lot of energy. He brings a lot of energy to the team room, and I’m looking forward to having his energy there again.”

As if Garcia needed more inspiration, he owns a very personal relationship with Medinah Country Club.

Six years ago, he finished in a share of third place at the PGA Championship on this very site. It was the 1999 edition of that event, though, for which he will always be remembered.

Seemingly stymied behind a tree on the right side of the par-4 16th hole, the 19-year-old Garcia took a mighty lash at the ball, then enthusiastically chased it down the fairway, mounting a memorable scissor-kick in the process. Upon realizing the ball had safely come to rest, he patted his heart in exaggerated relief, the world breathing a heavy sigh of relief with him.

“I have great memories from there,” he says. “I’ve played twice, and I’ve done well both times. So yeah, I’m excited about it.”

That tree no longer exists, felled years ago by the club. It could have served symbolically for him two years ago, when he was forced to watch the Ryder Cup from the sidelines. This time, though, he can keep patting his heart. Sergio Garcia is back in the Ryder Cup, in the heat of the moment. Right where he belongs.

Click to check out Golf Channel's and NBC Sports' Ryder Cup coverage.

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”

Rookie Cook (66) handling RSM like a pro

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:24 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Of all the impressive statistics Austin Cook has put up this week at the RSM Classic – he is first in strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach to the green and scrambling – the one number that stands out is 49.

That’s how many holes Cook went this week without a bogey or worse, a moment that prompted his caddie, Kip Henley, to joke, “The dream is over.”

That loss of momentum at the 14th hole didn’t last long, with the PGA Tour rookie making birdie at the next hole on his way to a third-round 66 and a three-stroke lead.

“Bouncing back from any bogey with a birdie is nice and helps get the number right back. Being my only bogey of the week so far, it was really nice to be able to get that back on the next hole,” said Cook, who leads Chris Kirk at 18 under par. “Going into tomorrow with a three-shot lead instead of a two-shot lead I think is crucial.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Although this is the first time Cook has held a 54-hole lead on the Tour, in fact it’s just his fourth start as a Tour member, he has experienced Sunday pressure before. In 2015, he began the final round at the Shell Houston Open one stroke off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.

“Back then my game was good as well, but mentally I've grown a lot and matured a lot and been able to kind of just let small things on the golf course roll off my shoulder instead of getting tied up in one little small mistake,” said Cook, who closed with a 75 at the ’15 Shell Houston Open to tie for 11th.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.