Garcia keeps emotions at bay amid hecklers

By Randall MellJune 14, 2013, 12:16 am

ARDMORE, Pa. – Sergio Garcia made the smartest play of the day in the first round of the U.S. Open.

In the wake of his 3-over-par 73, he downplayed a steady volley of afternoon taunts from galleries at Merion.

To be sure, the City of Brotherly Love did heap affection on the Spaniard with Philadelphia area fans encouraging him, but there was venom along with it.

Throughout his back nine, Garcia was told to keep his chin up, to keep battling, to know folks there were rooting for him, but there was some heckling working against all that. There was a volley of wisecracks from folks apparently eager to punish him for his “fried chicken” crack about Tiger Woods three weeks ago.

The taunts did not come in a torrent, they were scattered, but they built as the day grew longer, as beer sales grew in the emerging sun. They grew intrusive enough between shots that USGA rules official Donnie Bowers walked into the eighth fairway and asked Garcia if he wanted the two police escorts there to begin removing hecklers.

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“No,” Garcia told him. “It would only make it worse, but I thank you.”

Garcia had three holes to play then, and he made the most of them, making birdies at two of them to shoot a respectable score after a nightmarish start.

This was an important day for Garcia, his first in front of American crowds since the tumult created by his racially insensitive crack about Woods. It was the kind of day Garcia knows must be endured to get himself past it all.

In the U.S. Open, a major championship test that tries a man’s patience more than any other, Garcia was almost saintly in his patience, given the added mental and emotional challenges hurled at him.

How did the heckling affect him?

“I think there were a couple here and there, but I felt the people were very nice for the whole day,” Garcia said. “I think that almost all of them were behind me, and that was nice to see.”

Diplomats don’t deflect any better.

Garcia is trying to win his first major, and the odds are stacked like a mountain against him here. He’s 0-for-58 in majors, but this toughness he showed Thursday should give his fans hope he will one day break through.

Garcia received polite applause when he was introduced at day’s start at the 11th tee, and a single, lone boo from the packed grandstands there.

While the morning galleries were well-behaved, Garcia still looked uncomfortable at the start in his return to American soil. He looked like he was unraveling with a double bogey at the 14th and a quadruple bogey at the 15th, the fourth and fifth holes of his round.

He hooked his tee shot left at the 14th and out of bounds. That’s when the weather horn blew suspending play for more than three hours. The break didn’t help Garcia. Upon returning, he hit a worse hook at the 15th, an errant missile that soared over a road and on to a hospitality tent 30 yards left of OB. After re-teeing and then hitting his approach into a greenside bunker, he skulled his bunker shot, screaming it over the green. He was 7-over par when he reached the first tee to play the front side.

Garcia, who has melted down more than once with frustration in his past, admirably steadied himself and fought back even as the galleries grew bolder in their heckling. Garcia made three birdies, an eagle and bogey over his final 10 holes to get himself back in the tournament.

Walking to the first green, where an 8-foot birdie putt awaited him, Garcia heard his first nasty taunt.

“Hey, head case,” a fellow with a beer bellowed. “Let’s see you blow it 10 feet past.”

Garcia buried the birdie putt.

At the second hole, after Garcia belted a solid 3-wood going for the green in two, a fan yelled, “Sergio, can I get a bucket of chicken over here.” Garcia made eagle there.

As Garcia walked to the third green, a group of four or five men standing at the top row of the bleachers booed him. As he left the fifth green, a couple men began shouting the new Kentucky Fried Chicken mantra, 'I ate the bones, I ate the bones.' At the seventh green, with Garcia’s putt tracking to the hole, a fan shouted, “Winner, winner, chicken dinner.”

There were more taunts and scattered boos through all of this, but Garcia took every shot at him with stoic determination and let his clubs fire back. He had the best kind of answers over those difficult final 10 holes. He had an arsenal of shots showing the kind of mental toughness Garcia’s lacked in some other big moments. There was that promise with Garcia facing the stiffest challenges Merion offered.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“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," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry