Garcia's happiness fueling on-course results

By Jason SobelAugust 2, 2014, 10:34 pm

AKRON, Ohio – Sergio Garcia was standing on the 16th tee when the horn blew Saturday afternoon, signaling a weather delay at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. As he shuffled off the course, longtime flame Katharina Boehm sidled up close, joining him underneath a navy blue and white umbrella.

While they walked, she placed her left hand on his back. The television camera lens couldn’t help but focus on the unmistakable diamond ring on her fourth finger.

Jump to your own conclusions, if you’d like.

Asked about it earlier in the week, Garcia didn’t exactly deny any change in their relationship status.

“No, there's really nothing that I want or should talk about it,” he said. “I think that's between Katy and myself. If we get married or something, I'm sure everybody will find out. So it wouldn't be a problem.”

We can respect that request for privacy, but likewise jump to this conclusion, too: More than any other elite golfer in the world, Sergio Garcia’s success has always been dependent on his personal happiness. Which means he must be ecstatic right now, two weeks removed from a runner-up finish at Hoylake and holding a three-stroke lead here at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational entering the final round. 

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: Articles, videos and photos

Thanks to a 3-under 67, Garcia propelled himself into the driver’s seat in hopes of his first PGA Tour title in nearly two full years.

Afterward, he was all smiles.

“I'm thrilled to be as comfortable and as happy as I am now,” he explained. “The last three years have been very good. I felt like once I recovered from my little fall down or whatever, it's been nice. I've always said that I couldn't be luckier to have such an amazing family around me. They're always behind me.”

The “little fall down” that he referenced was a two-month sabbatical in 2010, a period during which he reassessed his priorities and later admitted thinking about giving up the game altogether.

Instead, he gradually returned hungrier and, yes, happier.

It’s important to note that while most players’ happiness is based on success inside the ropes, Garcia has always viewed his career through an opposite prism.

That isn’t just a generality, either. He can point to specific parts of his game which are positively affected by a peaceful mindset.

“It's easier to manage your emotions a little bit better,” he said. “It's easier to take mistakes in a better way. That probably comes down to saving shots at the end of the day, not letting mistakes affect you as much. If you make them, just kind of deal with them and move on.”

Not that he’s had to deal with many mistakes this week.

Garcia has compiled 16 birdies against just two bogeys at Firestone, a course which hasn’t been very friendly to him in recent years.

But that may underscore the main theme of his performance. This isn’t the same Sergio who considered quitting the game or shook his angry fist at the golf gods. He’s content with himself, content with his life and, as a happy byproduct, content with his golf game.

“I have a great group not only with my girlfriend, but with my managing team and everybody and my sponsors,” he said. “We've gone through bad times, tough times, but they've always made me feel really, really good.”

Other players have noticed a difference in his demeanor, too.

Rory McIlroy, a friend and Ryder Cup teammate and fellow contender this week, will share the last pairing of the final round with Garcia. He knows a thing or two about competing under emotional distress and understands how his Sunday playing partner has altered his perspective.

“I think a big thing with Sergio is you all know that emotionally he's in a really good place,” McIlroy said. “I think that's really helping him on the golf course. He's in a good place in his life right now and I'm really happy to see that. That's really coming out in the way he's playing and his whole demeanor. It's good to see.”

Explained Garcia: “He knows what I went through. I know what he went through. And I would say we're both feeling quite good about ourselves at the moment. We both feel quite comfortable where we are and quite happy.”

You haven’t needed to listen to his words lately to understand that. That happiness has been written all over his face lately, his buoyant smile flashing brighter than it has in years.

As he walked off the course for that weather delay Saturday, it may have been written all over his back, too – the secret to his happiness the focus of the television camera lens. He didn’t want to address that matter, but he still did so with a smile.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.