The World According to Garcia
Garcia was once again a world traveler in 2002, playing primarily in the United Sates, but making trips to England, Australia, Spain, France and Korea. He still has off-season committments to compete in Singapore, Japan and South Africa.
In all, he played 14 events exclusive to the PGA Tour, four tournaments that counted only on the European Tour, and seven others that were mutually official.
The four major tournaments and the three World Golf Championship events are the primary reasons why a player like Garcia is given the opportunity to keep his card on his native circuit.
Those seven tournaments count towards both the PGA and European Tours, meaning Garcia need only play in four other European events to maintain his playing privilege ' which is beneficial to both parties.
Sergio is very important for the European Tour, said Ernie Els, who is one of the games globtrotters. Its very important for (Garcia and others) to play over there, and I know theyre getting a lot of pressure to play.
They increase the tours exposure.
Els, who was given a lifetime European Tour membership in 1999, no longer has to compete in the required 11 events to keep his card. Garcia hasnt been afforded that luxury.
At the beginning of the year, he said his primary goal was to win the money list on both sides of the Atlantic. He started out with a victory in the Mercedes Championships, and then won the Spanish Open in April. But those were his only two titles ' outside of a win on the Asian PGA Tour. He finished 12th in earnings on the PGA Tour, and sixth on the European Order of Merit.
I feel like I played a little bit too much this year, Garcia said. Its pretty much the travel. Its quite hard and the more you do it the tougher it gets.
Because of the fatigue factor, Garcia said he is going to cut back his schedule in 2003, if only slightly.
Ill probably play a little less (in the U.S.). Ill probably go down to 18 (including the majors and WGC events), so a couple less tournaments, he said.
Garcia added even though he will drop two or three tournaments from his PGA Tour slate next year, he would still play the required 11 events to keep his European Tour membership.
I really feel like I need to play on both tours. I love playing here in the States, but I really feel that Europe deserves to see me play there, because Im European and youve got to support your tour.
The European Tour needs that star support. Garcia, Jesper Parnevik and Jose Maria Olazabal are PGA Tour members. Others like Darren Clarke, Padraig Harrington and Thomas Bjorn are playing increasingly more in America. And two-time Order of Merit winner Retief Goosen competed in a career-high eight events exclusive to the PGA Tour this season, compared to 13 in Europe.
Garcia has proven to be one of the most talented and recognizable figures wherever he plays.
Aside from his victories on each tour, he finished tied for ninth in the WGC-Match Play Championship; tied for fourth in The Players Championship; eighth in the Masters; fourth in the U.S. Open; tied for eighth in the British Open; tied for 10th in the PGA Championship; seventh in the WGC-American Express, and tied for seventh in last weeks Volvo Masters.
Im quite happy with this season and my level of play has been good, he said. But Im a little unhappy in that, from the beginning of the year, I felt like my game was better and that I should have won more tournaments.
In order to improve on his performances, Garcia said he would dedicate his off-season to further developing his short game.
Im working quite hard on my putting. From probably 110, 120 yards in, Ive got to improve a little more. Its not that Im not good, but I need to be better, he said.
Ive been driving the ball extremely well for the last couple of years. Long irons are pretty consistent, pretty solid. If I get a little better from 120 yards in, and with my putting, the scores should get lower and lower.
His major focus next year is to win a major championship, where he was the only player to finish inside the top 10 in all four tournaments.
Though he didnt win one of golfs biggest events, he did help his team capture the Ryder Cup. He went 2-2-1 at The Belfry, but drew the ire of some of the American team members with his enthusiastic behavior. In particular, Davis Love III was put off when Garcia came sprinting down the 18th fairway to celebrate the Europeans victory ' while Loves match with Pierre Fulke was still in doubt.
I said, if I hurt him, I said, Im sorry, I didnt mean to, Garcia explained. We really came to one big decision, one thing that we both thought, that the Ryder Cup was over at that time. So I dont think it was that huge of a deal.
Jim Furyk and Garcia also had a private talk during the matches. Furyk was quoted as saying the European squad was comprised of 11 gentlemen and one little boy.
But despite the criticisms, Garcia said he isnt about to change his demeanor.
I dont know if you want me to be a robot going out there; I cant play like that, he said. If I see a guy that doesnt get excited at all, Im not going to tell him, Oh, what are you doing, thats wrong. Maybe you should ask somebody else to get a little more excited.
Garcias approach to the game has also annoyed some Stateside fans. He was berated at Bethpage, site of this years U.S. Open, for his constant gripping and re-gripping of the club prior to hitting a shot.
The fiery Spaniard fired back with a one-finger salute, but later apologized and said he didnt want to play the heavy in America, as this is where he plans to primarily compete in the future.
Garcia has been a member of the PGA Tour since 1999, and recently purchased Els home outside of Orlando, Fla. He admits that over the past few years he has become a bit Americanized.
Theres not doubt my accent has already changed, he said.
Its got to a point where sometimes I know a word in English and I cant get it in SpanishIts funny, but its happened.
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.