Unlike in '08, Garcia succeeding despite putter

By Randall MellMay 10, 2015, 12:23 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – After Sergio Garcia won The Players Championship in 2008, he lifted his putter, as if it were a scepter for everyone to see, and kissed the blade.

Given his tumultuous relationship with the unruly instrument, the image was jarring.

This gifted ball striker showed what magic is possible when he makes an ally on the greens.

Garcia is back in contention at The Players, but the bewildering angle this time is that he’s making his run with a putter that is practically a sworn enemy again. He’s knocking on the door of his ninth PGA Tour title in spite of his wicked, cursed - even broken - flat stick.

After posting a 5-under-par 67 Saturday, Garcia did everything but scratch his head when he looked up to see that he is just two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I am a little surprised I am where I am, the way I feel, because I feel like I’ve left a lot of shots out there,” Garcia said.

Garcia isn’t being overly dramatic. He didn’t snap his putter over his knee after Friday’s round and stuff it in a garbage can for effect. A look at the tournament stats will make his fellow players want to scratch their heads, too.

Garcia is in contention despite ranking dead last in the field in putting from inside 10 feet.

He has missed five putts of 4 feet or less.

He was so flummoxed on Friday that he began alternating between a conventional grip and claw grip over the final four holes.

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“I don’t know what to do,” he said after the round.

Garcia started this week with a conventional grip but was back to the claw throughout Saturday’s round.

The fact that Garcia is in contention is a testament to how stellar his ball striking remains. He hit every fairway but one Saturday. He’s first in the field this week in strokes gained-tee to green and tied for fourth in greens in regulation.

Yes, of course, Garcia is making putts. He holed a nice 12-footer to save par at the last hole on Saturday, but he was still kicking himself for missing so many good chances. He missed putts from 9 feet, 8 feet, 7 feet and 3 feet in Saturday’s round alone.

Garcia’s mood was inscrutable after. It was difficult to tell if he was excited about being in contention to win another Players Championship or disappointed that he wasn’t running away with the title.

“I am excited,” Garcia was asked. “It's always exciting to be up there, but at the same time, obviously, you look back at these first three days, and I feel like I easily left, on average, three shots out there every round. You cannot think what could have been. It is what it is. It's as simple as that. I’ve just got to deal with it and try to do the best with what I have and that's what I'm trying to do.”

Sometimes Garcia seems to sabotage himself. We’ve all heard him be afraid to trust prosperity, or doubt fortune is ready to favor him, or just beat himself up.

“Sergio is hard on himself,” Rory McIlroy said. “I think you guys have probably experienced that over the past 15 or 20 years covering him. There’s a reason he gets so down on himself. Because he is so talented, and he knows what he can achieve. He knows how  good he can be.

“We’re all like that at times. I get frustrated with myself, but I feel like I can just sort of let it go maybe a little easier. Maybe that Latin blood in there sort of gets him a little fired up.”

Garcia started the week with a TaylorMade prototype blade putter made specially for him. He abandoned it for the second round but went back to it Saturday after breaking the putter he brought off the bench, in addition to changing his grip.

“Even when it doesn't feel good, it still feels better than the other one, when it doesn't feel good,” Garcia said.

With the putting frustration so apparent, Garcia was asked how confident he is going into Sunday.

“I'm very confident with my game, with my long game,” he said. “Even my chipping has been quite good for most of the year. Unfortunately, my putting has just been up and down. Some great rounds, and then some rounds where, I don't know, I can't even see the hole.

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

We’ll see if Garcia kisses the blade of another putter in victory, or snaps yet another as he sends it on the way to another garbage can.

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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, GolfChannel.com 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 Web.com 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 Web.com 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