Garcia needs to overcome 'victim' mentality

By Randall MellMay 14, 2013, 2:00 pm

Sergio Garcia must know the kind of frustration that plagued Sisyphus in Greek mythology.

He’s the king the gods punished by compelling to roll a boulder up a hill, a damned task in that he spends eternity trying over and over again to roll the boulder to the top, only to see it roll back down without ever reaching the peak.

That must be what Garcia feels like going up against Tiger Woods.

Garcia’s rock, though, kept rolling into the water at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course’s 17th and 18th holes in Sunday’s finish, with Woods going on to win The Players Championship.

Photos: Garcia through the years

Woods is one obstacle Garcia appears doomed never to overcome.

This weekend marked the seventh time Garcia has played with Woods on a weekend and the seventh time Woods has gone on to win the event.

Talent isn’t holding Garcia back. Even his putting is more asset than liability these days. He’s third in strokes gained-putting this season. Really, he has to be encouraged the way he played Pete Dye’s maddening golf maze for 70 holes. He also has to be encouraged seeing the failure Adam Scott overcame winning the Masters last month.

We were reminded again this past weekend that it’s Garcia’s attitude that seems to be holding him back from greater glory.

We’ve come to watch him not so much expecting him to find a way to win big events as expecting him to find a reason he lost.

Garcia’s boulder seems more like a snowball growing with Sunday's failure. 

Back when Garcia fell short at the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in ’02, he complained in the second round that the USGA would have halted play in the weather conditions he endured if Woods had been out in his wave. He was justifiably aggravated by fans who seemed to be ganging up on him in taunting him over his difficulty with waggles.

When Garcia lost the British Open at Carnoustie in 2007 to Padraig Harrington, he was inconsolable in the aftermath. He watched one of his shots that Sunday hit the flagstick and carom 20 feet away. The golf gods, he assumed, were conspiring against him.

“I’m playing against a lot of guys out there, more than the field,” Garcia said back then.

When he struggled at the Masters in ’09, he called the set up “unfair” and “too tricky.” He later apologized.

At the Masters last year, Garcia hit bottom in woe-is-me ranting.

“I’m not good enough,” he said of his attempts to win a major. “I don’t have the thing I need to have. The conclusion is I need to play for second or third place.”

Garcia is still just 33, really in the prime of a golfer’s career. It’s all still out there for him if he can get his head where it needs to be to win the big events he most wants to win. He’s 0 for 58 in majors, but Phil Mickelson didn’t break through until he was Garcia’s age with his first win at the Masters. Mickelson’s won three more majors. Ben Hogan didn’t break through to win his first major until he was 34. Scott just broke through at 32.

We’re fascinated watching Garcia, because he is one of the most exciting and unpredictable players to follow. He has an arsenal of full shots that can match Woods or any other player. He has more flair, more magnetism, more passion than a dozen other PGA Tour pros combined.

You sit up a little straighter when you see Garcia is in contention, because he brings electricity, intangibles that help boost his star power.

Still, Garcia said it best at The Players when he laid out the challenge he faces.

After Sunday’s late collapse, when asked if he wished he had better handled his little squabble with Woods the day before, Garcia shook his head.

“No, no, it sounds like I’m the bad guy here,” Garcia said. “I was the victim.”

That pretty much sums up Garcia’s attitude about his biggest losses on the game’s largest stages.

He seems to see himself as a victim in a larger sense than he even meant Sunday.

If you’re a Garcia fan, you don’t want him believing that.

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Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

In fact, she named her “Mona.”

For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

And that has her excited about this year.

Well, that and having a healthy back again.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.