A New Man

By Randall MellApril 8, 2011, 2:22 am

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Who is this guy?

He looks like Sergio Garcia, swings like him, but he doesn’t sound like the guy who once seemed more likely to be fitted with a strait jacket than a green jacket at the Masters.

He doesn’t act like the guy, either.

After an up-and-down back nine that would have tested the temperament of the Sergio of old, the new Sergio sounded as cool and calm as a Zen Master.

He played as if he were in a state of transcendental meditation.

“I just have to let things happen, good and bad,” Garcia said after getting himself in the early hunt with a 3-under-par 69. “If you manage to do that, and not take bad things too seriously, you have a better chance.”

Struggling with frustration and a slumping game, Garcia, 31, went into exile after missing the cut at PGA Championship late last summer. He took two months off for rest and revitalization. A seven-time PGA Tour winner, he’s seeking his first major championship triumph.

Robert Karlsson has noticed the difference in Garcia since his return to golf.

“I know him quite well,” said Karlsson, who played alongside Garcia Thursday. “I played with him the first time in 1995. He looked like he was 12 years old.

Sergio Garcia
Garcia made four birdies, an eagle and three bogeys in his opening-round 69. (Getty Images)
“I can tell you, I don’t know what it is, if it was the break he took, or something else, but he definitely looks like a more harmonious person than he’s been in the past, even more so than when I played with him in January in Bahrain. He wasn’t happy on the golf course there. Whatever he’s found, or whatever he is doing, he’s definitely more harmonious on the course today.”

Garcia? Harmonious? At Augusta National?

We’ve seen him play with fiery determination on torrid runs here. We’ve seen him exasperated and at wit’s ends on lousy runs here. We’ve heard him lash out at the course. We’ve seen a gamut of emotions from Garcia, but we’ve never heard him depicted as being in harmony with the place.

“At the first hole, Sergio’s tee shot went right and rolled up against a tree,” Karlsson said. “If that would have happened in the past, you could see him being pissed off right at the first hole. Today, he ended up making a nice 4.

“He’s chatting away more, smiling more, not getting too caught up with things.”

Garcia’s had a tumultuous relationship with Augusta National’s 18 holes. He shot 66 in the final round in 2004 and tied for fourth. He finished eighth in 2002. He’s also missed the cut four times.

Back in 2009, Garcia’s frustrations with the setup came boiling out. Sixth after two rounds, he shot 75 and 74 on the weekend to tie for 38th.

“I don’t like it, to tell you the truth,” Garcia told reporters as he left the course in ’09. “I don't think it is fair. Even when it's dry you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway. It's too much of a guessing game.”

Garcia apologized two days later, but the course wasn’t very forgiving when he returned last year. He shot 76 and 78 on the weekend.

Garcia’s 69 Thursday was his best start in the Masters since 2003. He’s getting comfortable with that right-hand claw grip in his putting stroke. He made five birdies and two bogeys with it.

Though Garcia got off to a fast start at 3 under through five holes, he dropped back to 1 under after ripping an 8-iron over the 12th green and making bogey. He answered right back at the 13th with an eagle. After carving a giant draw around the corner of the dogleg, he hit a 6-iron form 189 yards to 15 feet.

Karlsson said Garcia’s big draw at the 13th was another sign that the best of Garcia’s ball striking is back.

“Those are the kind of shots you see him take on when he is playing well and feeling good,” Karlsson said. “It was a great drive.”

Garcia followed his eagle with another big drive at the 14th, where he nearly holed his wedge shot. He left himself a 6-inch birdie.

Garcia was tested in the end. After missing the green left, he chipped to 8 feet and missed the putt.

“I hit a lot of good quality shots,” Garcia said.

Karlsson would tell you he hit a lot of harmonious shots.

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMell

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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

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.