Hawk's Nest: Tribulation leads to triumph for Garcia

By John HawkinsJanuary 27, 2014, 2:50 pm

IT WAS ONE of last year’s most regrettable incidents, but in a backhanded way, maybe the fried-chicken fiasco has helped lead Sergio Garcia to the altar of manhood. Accountability was never one of Garcia’s strongest assets. His racially sensitive remarks regarding Tiger Woods, however, left Sergio with nowhere to hide. No flimsy excuse could repair the damage caused by his comments.

It’s one thing to whine about bad luck costing you a British Open. Tiger-induced crowd noise in your backswing? It’s hard to take such a charge seriously, but that particular gripe did expose the contempt for Woods that had boiled inside Garcia for years. His racial crack 10 days later was basically a manifestation of those same bitter feelings.

For all the noise that ensued, Sergio’s victory in Qatar this past weekend barely created a stir. It wasn’t the strongest field in European Tour history, but Garcia’s ability to get the job done in a three-hole playoff after shooting the day’s lowest round (65) suggests there are bigger things on the horizon.

Of course, Sergio’s horizon has always included a few dark clouds that weren’t in the forecast. Quietly, he has become one of the game’s most consistent performers, missing just three cuts in 51 PGA Tour starts since the beginning of 2011. There were six top-10s in 17 events here last year, all of them against fields ranging between good and excellent.

If you don’t win, however, you’re just a really good golfer making a whole lot of money. Call me a knucklehead, but Garcia will pick off a big W somewhere in the U.S. this year. All those failures later, I can still see him in a green jacket on a Sunday evening in April. A U.S. Open is not as ridiculous as it seems – the guy has a history of high finishes despite back-to-back missed cuts in 2006 and ’07.

Besides, the past doesn’t really matter anymore. Garcia is tougher simply by dealing with the calamity of last spring. And he clearly is happier with a steady girlfriend, Katharina Boehm, a German-born collegiate golfer (College of Charleston) willing to deal with the complexities that come with Sergio’s world.

Boehm caddied for Garcia late last year in Thailand, where he won, at which point she gave up the job. “I wanted to keep going, but she fired me,” Sergio quipped afterward. Smart girl. Working on that bag is harder than being a meteorologist in Ireland.

Having known the guy since 1999, I’m fully aware that Garcia is just a good, old-fashioned mama’s boy. His 2009 relationship with Greg Norman’s daughter, Morgan Leigh, ended abruptly, and the dude was a puddle for months. He just turned 34, so there’s plenty of time to revive his career. If you’ve got a bunch of skeletons in your closet, you just don’t open the door.

THE FIRE HYDRANT is in the rear-view mirror, so to speak, and Woods stands just four wins away from breaking Sam Snead’s all-time victory total (82). I find it rather strange that Tiger’s pursuit of this particular number hasn’t gotten more attention – his quest to pass Jack Nicklaus on the major-championship ladder seems to have obscured another landmark achievement.

Snead’s 82 wins were spread out over a 29-year stretch. Woods is a good bet to do it in about 18 years, and for those who gripe that Red Shirt stocked his trophy case by winning the same few events every year, the Slammer owned the Greater Greensboro Classic, which he won eight times.

The fact that Woods is very likely to pass Snead before his 40th birthday makes his possession of the record all the more remarkable. A majority of his starts over the years have come against premium fields, which further validates his dominance. Snead collected five victories in a season eight times, but he won just three money titles and one Player of the Year award.

He was robbed of the POY in 1950, when his 11 Ws were trumped by a gimpy-legged Ben Hogan, whose only victory that year came at the U.S. Open. My point? Snead wasn’t really a dominant player. He stuck around for a long time and played some outstanding golf at an age when other men struggle just to get out of bed in the morning.

Woods has won 11 POYs, 10 money titles and a partridge in a pear tree. He has doubled Snead’s major total despite the 5 ½-year drought. His chances of catching Nicklaus seem to dwindle by the hour, but that shouldn’t have any bearing on the magnitude of this accomplishment.

TIGER’S LAST MAJOR title came with an extra helping of drama at Torrey Pines in 2008, which I thought was one of the better U.S. Opens I’ve covered. The atmosphere was festive throughout the week. The golf course was in much better shape than many people expected. And to have 35,000 people show up on a Monday morning for the Woods-Rocco Mediate playoff completely restored my faith in the 18-hole tiebreaker.

It defies logic as to why Torrey Pines isn’t on the list of future U.S. Open venues, which have been assigned through 2020. I do recall it being in the so-called mix as a possible 2018 host, but that one went to Shinnecock Hills. No question, Torrey Pines doesn’t help itself by holding a PGA Tour event every year. Let’s just say the USGA considers itself a cut above the others.

I also know that the stress level involved in getting the South Course up to U.S. Open standards was quite high – USGA setup man Mike Davis (now executive director) was concerned about the conditions of the public facility right up until game time. All that said, Torrey Pines was a vast success. It is worthy of another shot.

“It was a great course,” Davis said in 2011. “But I would say this, and I’ve said it before: I don’t think Torrey Pines is Shinnecock Hills. It played beautifully and worked logistically, [but] some golf courses may be sexier than others.”

With all due respect to Davis, a man I know and respect greatly, I’m not sure you can get any sexier than the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean on a perfect June afternoon. Is anyone at the PGA of America reading this column?

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The Social: G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T., after G.O.A.T.

By Jason CrookJanuary 23, 2018, 6:00 pm

Tom Brady compares himself to Tiger Woods, who coincidentally is returning to the PGA Tour this week, Jordan Spieth hangs out with some decent company and kids these days ruffle some feathers with their friendships.

All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

Well, it’s finally Farmers Insurance Open week and Woods has been spotted practicing for his official return to the PGA Tour on Thursday.

Some thought this day might never come after a 2017 filled with mostly downs for the 14-time major champ.

But as he has taught the golf world time and time again, you just can't count Tiger out.

So even as Jon Rahm attempts to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world this week at Torrey Pines, all eyes will be on one of the greatest we've ever seen do it, even if that guy is ranked No. 647 in the world.

Speaking of greatness …

There’s not many who can just offhandedly compare themselves to Tiger, but if anyone gets a pass, it’s Tom Brady.

The 40-year-old New England Patriots quarterback led his team back to the Super Bowl for the second straight year despite playing the AFC title game with a cut on his throwing hand.

When asked about it after the Patriots come-from-behind victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady answered, “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”

So there you have it. A 40-year-old Brady is winning AFC Championships with his C game. Good luck, Eagles; you’re going to need it.

Also, if for some reason you wanted an update on Justin Thomas' life, it's still awesome:

Yeah, that's last year's PGA Tour Player of the Year hanging with Cy Young winner Cory Kluber in a suite at the Patriots game and teasing us with a possible #SB2K18 cameo.

Curtis Strange likes his competitive golf straight up, hold the friendliness.

This, according to Curtis Strange.

The two-time U.S. Open champ took to Twitter during the CareerBuilder Challenge to vent his frustration regarding the constant chit-chat and friendliness between Rahm and Andrew Landry:

This, of course, makes sense in theory. But good luck watching golf – or really any sport – from here on out. Sure there will be a few old school guys who buck the trend here and there, but for the most part, it’s really hard to share a private jet/dinners/vacations/(insert awesome thing here) with someone, and then completely turn off the friendship coming down the stretch of a big tournament.

Damn millennials. They ruin everything.

By now you've all seen that poor Philadelphia Eagles fan who lost his battle with a subway station pillar (from multiple angles), so instead here is a video of a man attempting to stand on an egg. Bet you can't guess how that goes.

Tony's gonna stand on an egg

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Seriously if you haven't seen the video of that Eagles fan, here's your last chance in this column. You'll be glad you did.

Jordan Spieth, Michael Phelps and Bryce Harper walk on to a golf course … there’s no punchline, that actually happened last week in Las Vegas.

Was the whole thing just a big advertisement for Spieth’s new Under Armour shoe? You bet.

But that doesn’t make the optics of three of the biggest superstar athletes on the planet teeing it up for a round any less awesome.

Off to the next. #Spieth2 #TEAMUA

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The trio has three major wins, five All Star Game appearances and 28 Olympic medals between them, and there they were over the weekend just fake laughing for the camera and driving around individual golf carts with their own personalized logos on them.

Just guys being dudes. Nothing better than that.

Matt Kuchar. Still good at golf. Still overly polite. This according to European Tour pro Eddie Pepperell who had the privilege of hitting on the range next to Kuuuuuch in Abu Dhabi last week.

That image is burned into your brain forever now, thanks Eddie. From now on when you think of Kuchar you're going to think of those Sketches ads and "oopsies."

Which, I suppose is better than a, "Did you get that?"

Blayne Barber's caddie, Cory Gilmer, collapsed and hit his head while at a restaurant at the Sony Open and has been mostly unconscious in the neurological intensive care unit ever since.

The outpouring of love and support from the golf community has been overwhelming on social media, and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help with the mounting medical costs for Gilmer and his family.

Check out the link below for more info or to donate to a worthy cause:

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Top-ranked amateur wins LAAC, earns Masters invite

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 5:38 pm

Joaquin Niemann walked Augusta National Golf Club as a patron last year. He’ll be a competitor in 2018.

Niemann, the top-ranked amateur in the world, shot 8-under 63 Tuesday at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Santiago, Chile, to win the Latin America Amateur Championship.

And with the title, both redemption and an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

Full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Niemann finished runner-up in last year’s LAAC to fellow Chilean Toto Gana. He followed Gana around Augusta grounds, watching as his best friend played two rounds before missing the cut.

Niemann, who was going to turn professional had he not won this week, started the final round one back of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. Niemann was sluggish from the start on Tuesday, but then drove the 313-yard, par-4 eighth and made the eagle putt. That sparked a run of five birdies over his next six holes.

Niemann was bogey-free in the final round and finished five shots clear of Ortiz, at 11 under.

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Judges Panel, Host Announced for Wilson Golf's "Driver vs. Driver 2," Premiering This Fall on Golf Channel

By Golf Channel Public RelationsJanuary 23, 2018, 4:15 pm

‘Driver vs. Driver 2 Presented by Wilson Currently in Production; Sports Broadcaster Melanie Collins Returns to Host

Morning Drive: Driver vs. Driver 2 Judges Announced

Golf Channel and Wilson Golf announced today the panel of judges and host for the second season of Driver vs. Driver, the innovative television series that follows aspiring golf equipment designers as they compete for the opportunity to have their driver idea or concept transformed into the next great golf driver from Wilson. The show is currently in production and will premiere this fall.

Joining judge Tim Clarke, President of Wilson Golf, are two newcomers to the series: 9-time National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star and current NHL on NBC hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick – an avid golfer with a single digit handicap and a self-described golf equipment junkie; and PGA Professional, golf coach, equipment reviewer and social media influencer Rick Shiels.

“Golf is a big passion of mine, and personally I enjoy learning about new equipment and concepts,” said Roenick. “To be able to see this side of the business in how equipment is developed first-hand is fascinating. Being a part of the process in reviewing driver concepts and narrowing them down to an ultimate winning driver that will be sold across the country is a tremendous honor.” 

“Jeremy, as an avid golfer, and Rick, as a coach, equipment reviewer and golf professional, bring incredible, real world insights and different perspectives to the show and this process,” said Clarke. “I’m excited to work alongside these two judges to push the boundaries of innovation and bring a next-generation driver to golfers around the world.”

Sports broadcaster Melanie Collins returns as the host of Driver vs. Driver 2. Currently a sideline reporter for CBS Sports’ college football and basketball coverage, Collins hosted the inaugural season in 2016 and formerly co-hosted Golf Channel’s competition series, Big Break.

Production for Driver vs. Driver 2 began in the fall of 2017 and will continue through the summer, including this week at the PGA Merchandise Show. The series is being produced by Golf Channel, whose portfolio of original productions include interview series Feherty hosted by Emmy-nominated sports personality David Feherty, high-quality instruction shows School of Golf, Golf Channel Academy and Playing Lessons and a slate of award-winning films.

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Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)