Sergio Ready to Emerge from Shadows

By Mercer BaggsMarch 16, 2005, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- This year started with the Big Three. Then it expanded to the Big Four. And because everyone not named Retief Goosen said Retief Goosen should be included, there became the Big Five.
Just on the fringe of the Big However Many stands Sergio Garcia.
Sergio Garcia
Putting may be the one thing keeping Sergio Garcia from being among golf's elite.
Garcia is ranked eighth in the world. Hes about two full points behind Goosen, who stands in fifth place ' and two full majors. And thats about the proper distance between golfs current crop of really good players and the truly elite.
Garcia is good, really good. Hes coming off a season in which he won twice on the PGA Tour, once on the European Tour and went 4-0-1 for a victorious European squad in the Ryder Cup.
Thats an amazing performance, and one he would love to duplicate annually (or biennially, as would be the case). But its not good enough to force the evolution of a Big Six.
The media, of course, tends to focus the lions share of its attention on the top of the top. Woods, Singh, Els, Mickelson, and to a lesser extent Goosen, grab the majority of the headlines.
Does it bother Garcia that he can accomplish so much and still be overlooked at times?
To tell you the truth, I really dont care that much. I know what I can do. Thats something that you guys (the media) like to point out, he said.
I really feel like Ive just got to get better, keep improving and let my clubs do the talking. You know, when I do that, then you guys will realize if Im in that category that you were talking about or not.
You can tell, however, there is something there. Something below the surface that occasionally rises up to shake the tree for a few leaves of respect.
It was just a year ago that Garcia shot 66 in the final round of the Masters and then chided a handful of reporters, saying When we're playing well, we're the best ... So it's nice to see how fair you guys are, and I just hope that you guys don't come out now saying, oh, you know, he's back, and this is the Sergio we know and all that.
Garcia later apologized for the outburst. Hes always been more emotional than most. And sometimes we tend to forget that hes only 25 years old and still maturing.
You know, I think thats probably one of my strengths, Garcia said a couple of weeks ago about his outward emotions. But, you know, you can also ' if you dont control it the right way, it can also be a weakness. So youve got to make sure that you go always on the right path.
It only seems that Garcia is well beyond his actual age. He rose to international prominence when he gave Woods a run at the 1999 PGA Championship ' when he was just 19.
He finished second that year at Medinah. And it wasn't long thereafter that he was grouped into the dreaded Best Player Never to Have Won a Major category.
I find it a bit funny, because, you know, Im (25) and they are putting me on that list already. Its like, if you just got on tour, and some people just got on tour who are 24, 25 years old and you cant just put them on that list.
But its also a good thing, because they consider you a good golfer, a good player.
Garcia has notched seven top-10 major finishes since nearly scissor-kicking his way to the 99 PGA title, but he hasnt come as close to winning one as he did that Sunday nearly six years ago.
You have to keep giving yourself chances, and as I said other years, theres some guys that are a bit more fortunate than that ' they get one chance and they get through. And theres some other guys that it takes them a bit longer, he said.
But, you know, I think that Im giving myself good opportunities of winning majors ' and thats all I can do at the moment, and hopefully things will go my way in one of them.
Garcia made an effort to better his game ' and his chances of winning a major ' by reworking his swing throughout the 2003 season. It was a trying period; and one where he suffered through his worst results as a professional.
It brought about plenty of criticism from others at the time, but now seems to have brought about plenty of positives for Garcia. Last year showed him ' and everyone else ' that everything he had been working on was actually going to work for him.
He ranked sixth on tour in scoring average and fourth in greens hit in regulation. He was 33rd in driving distance, but 170th in driving accuracy.
Garcia, who has bulked up a bit this year, carrying about 170 lbs on his 510 frame, isnt overly concerned about his waywardness off the tee. The Ford Championship was further proof that its better to be long than accurate in this day and age on the PGA Tour.
At the moment, Garcia is focused on improving his putting, where he ranked 129th on tour in 04.
The long game ' I think it was great, the best I had in my career, no doubt about it, Garcia said of his 2004 performance. Unfortunately, I didnt putt very well last year and it showed.
If I would have been putting a little bit better, I probably would have had four easy, good chances of winning more tournaments last year.
Garcia hasnt sniffed a victory yet this year. He got a top-10 at the limited-field Mercedes Championships and made it to the quarterfinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. But he has yet to crack the top 40 in two full-field, stroke-play events.
And he can point right to his putting for the reason why. For the most part, his numbers thus far this season are right on pace with last years ' he even leads the tour in Grenns Hit ' but hes 182nd on tour in putting average.
Im still a bit rusty, he said in his last event at the Ford Championship, where he ultimately tied for 64th. Definitely not feeling my best. But, you know, working on it and trying to get better and see if we can get some confidence.
If he can find a little confidence with the flat stick, it might swallow up his entire game. And wouldnt that add to an already dynamic season?
There's no doubt at the moment there's a lot of guys playing well. Of course probably two or three years ago, you know, Tiger was the one that was standing out. There was some other guys playing pretty well, but I think right now at the moment, there's a bigger group playing quite well, you know, playing good golf.
If I keep working on the same things Ive been working, Ill have a good chance of doing some good things.
Related Links:
  • Sergio Garcia's Bio
  • Full Coverage - Bay Hill Invitational
  • Def. champ Fitzpatrick grabs lead at Euro finale

    By Associated Press, Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 1:50 pm

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Defending champion Matthew Fitzpatrick shot a second straight 5-under-par 67 to secure a one-stroke lead halfway through the European Tour's season-ending Tour Championship on Friday.

    At 10 under after two rounds on the Earth course of Jumeirah Golf Estate, Fitzpatrick leads English compatriot Tyrrell Hatton, whom he beat by one shot to win the title last year.

    Hatton moved into contention with a brilliant 9-under 63, a round soured only by a closing bogey on the par-5 18th hole.

    In the Race to Dubai, main protagonists Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose experienced contrasting emotions to their opening rounds. Fleetwood boosted his chances by rising into a tie for 11th at 6 under after a 65. Rose endured a three-putt bogey on the 18th to finish with a 70, and dropped on the leaderboard so he's just two shots ahead of Fleetwood.

    Masters champion Sergio Garcia, the only other player with a chance to win the Order of Merit, stayed in contention by adding a 69 to his opening 70 to be one shot behind Fleetwood.

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    Fleetwood needs to equal or better Rose's finishing position to claim the title. If Rose doesn't finish in the top five and Garcia doesn't win, Fleetwood will have done enough.

    Fitzpatrick made two bogeys but eagled the 14th, and five birdies contributed to his 67.

    Overnight leader Patrick Reed is now three back following an even-par 72. Reed is in the field thanks to a European Tour regulation that allows the Presidents Cup to count as an official event, thus allowing him to meet his quota of tournaments played.

    Fitzpatrick was helped immensely also by the 18th, where Hatton, Rose, and Reed all made bogeys. Fitzpatrick birdied the hole for a second straight day with a 25-foot putt.

    ''I said to my caddie, we were putting really, really well all week so far,'' Fitzpatrick said.

    ''The thing is, you get so many fast putts around here, even uphill into the green, they are still running at 12, 13 (on the stimpmeter) even. You've just got to be really sort of careful. Every putt is effectively a two-putt. You've got to control your pace well and limit your mistakes, because it's easy to three-putt out here.''

    Rose, hoping to win a third straight tournament after triumphs in China and Turkey, was disappointed with his finish despite playing solid golf from tee to green.

    ''To make six (on 18) just ends the day on the wrong note, but other than that, I played really well on the back nine,'' Rose said.

    ''I was aware of the scores and who had done what today. But listen, halfway stage, I'd probably have signed up for that if somebody said on Wednesday you would be in this position after two rounds. It's a position you can build on the weekend.''

    Fleetwood resurrected his chances of winning the Order of Merit with a 65, eight shots better than his opening round. His only bogey of the day came on the seventh after an errant drive, but that was the only mistake on a solid day that saw him make eight birdies.

    Fleetwood spent hours on the putting green after his first round.

    ''I needed a low one today for (a tournament win and the Order of Merit),'' he said. ''Luckily, I got a good score.''

    Closing eagle gives Kirk 1-shot lead in RSM

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 12:16 am

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.

    Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.

    ''I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn't sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,'' Kirk said. ''Even when I thought it wasn't quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.''

    The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.

    ''It's a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,'' Kirk said. ''Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.''

    The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.

    ''I'm still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,'' Kirk said. ''But keep shooting 9 under, so I won't have to worry about it too much.'

    Joel Dahmen had a 64.

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    ''I think it played a little easier today,'' Dahmen said. ''The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.

    ''I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.

    ''I feel like I've been rolling it pretty good,'' Swafford said. ''Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don't have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.''

    He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.

    ''We are right in the heart of Dawgs' territory, mine and Harman's backyard, so it's kind of nice,'' Swafford said.

    Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.

    ''We don't need to talk about that,'' said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.

    Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.

    Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his first return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.

    Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.

    Co-leader Smith credits Foley's influence

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:33 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sarah Jane Smith is making the most of the devoted efforts of Sean Foley this week.

    Foley’s prize pupil, Justin Rose, is in the hunt at the World Tour Championship in the United Arab Emirates, looking to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, but Foley isn’t there with him.

    Foley promised to help Smith this week, and he’s living up to the pledge, making the trip to Naples.

    “At 33, Sarah is in her prime,” Foley told “She is going to hold a trophy at some point. She is too skilled not to win.”

    Foley's extra attention is paying off for Smith.

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    With a 6-under-par 66, Smith moved into early contention to make her first LPGA title memorable at the CME Group Tour Championship. She’s tied for the first-round lead with Taiwan rookie Peiyun Chien.

    “I just seem to play my best with him,” Smith said.

    Foley, the former coach to Tiger Woods, was No. 10 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 teacher rankings released this fall.

    Foley sees a lot coming together in Smith’s game. She is a 12-year veteran building some momentum. She tied for third at the Women’s Australian Open earlier this year and is coming off three consecutive top-15 finishes in Asia. She is sixth on tour in birdies this season. 

    “As a coach, you try to get a player to see something in themselves that is already there,” Foley said.

    Rose, by the way, opened with a 6-under-par 66 in Dubai and is one shot off the lead.

    Seeking awards sweep, Park 1 off lead

    By Randall MellNovember 16, 2017, 11:03 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park made a strong start in her bid to make LPGA history with an epic sweep of the year’s major awards.

    Park opened the CME Group Tour Championship Thursday with a 5-under-par 67, moving her a shot off the lead.

    Park is looking to join Nancy Lopez as the only players to win the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park has already clinched the Rookie of the Year Award.

    Park, 24, can also walk away with the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Race to the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot.

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    Nobody has ever swept all those awards.

    There’s even more for Park to claim. She can also take back the Rolex world No. 1 ranking. She’s No. 2, just two hundredths of a point behind Shanshan Feng.

    “I think the course suits my game really well,” Park said through a translator. “I think I can play well in the next rounds.”

    Park played the course just once before Thursday’s start, in Wednesday’s pro-am.

    The reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion, Park won twice this year. She also won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open this summer.