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?

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.