Fairness behind Garcia's good-good gesture

By Rex HoggardFebruary 22, 2014, 12:42 am

MARANA, Ariz. – Of course it would be Sergio Garcia who would so publicly scale the hill to the bizarre moral high ground.

Whether one views the Spaniard as villain or victim, the surreal episode that unfolded on Friday at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship was all at once principled and peculiar.

Garcia, 2 up in his Round 3 match against Rickie Fowler, hit his tee shot near a sprinkler head short of the sixth green. Depending on who you ask, there were anywhere from 20 (Garcia’s estimate) to 50 (Fowler’s count) bees buzzing about the sprinkler.

“I had a bad experience with bees as a youngster so I felt quite uncomfortable with the shot,” Garcia said.

After a lengthy decision with the walking rules official, Garcia was allowed to drop away from the bees while Fowler waited to attempt his 8-footer for birdie. Fowler missed, Garcia scrambled for par to halve the hole and the duo headed to the par-4 seventh.

As Fowler and Garcia eyed par putts to halve the seventh hole of 18 feet and 6 feet, respectively, El Nino broke the silence.

“Wanna half?” he asked Fowler.

As an aside, count “good, good?” among the phrases that will not be uttered at September’s Ryder Cup.

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Fowler, flummoxed by the notion of an 18-foot gimme, blinked.

“What?” he asked. As he explained later, “Then he said, ‘Wanna half?’ And I’m like, ‘Excuse me?’ I kind of wanted to play it out but I’d be stupid not to take his offer.”

Fowler would win the match, 1 up.

As the two marched to the eighth tee, Garcia explained to Fowler that he felt bad about making the American wait to putt at No. 6 and wanted to make amends. After the match, Garcia said he felt like it was simply the right thing to do.

“My drop on No. 6 took too much time and I would not want to be in his position,” Garcia said. “I thought it was the best thing to do for the game and for me.”

This, however, was about more than simply a clear conscience. Garcia, who has endured and enabled more than his share of contentious moments in his career, was making a statement, and whether one considers his actions calculated or candid the point was above criticism.

The level of vitriol in golf reached raucous levels in 2013. Between the very public rift over anchored putting to Vijay Singh’s legal give and take over his run-in with the PGA Tour’s anti-doping program, the gentlemen’s game has been anything but in recent times.

“I feel like unfortunately the game is not where it should be. We are gentlemen,” Garcia explained. “It’s sad, but unfortunate that the world is a little twisted at the moment.”

To be historically accurate, parts of that “twisted” dialogue have been of the Spaniard’s making.

His dust-up with Tiger Woods during last year’s Players Championship, for example, was prompted in large part because Garcia felt the world No. 1 had intentionally caused the crowd to react while Garcia was hitting a shot. But after the tape was reviewed more times than the Zapruder film it was clear Woods didn’t mean to cause the disturbance.

In May, Garcia compounded the problem when he was asked during an awards ceremony in London if he planned to have Woods over for dinner during the U.S. Open.

“We will have him ’round every night. We will serve fried chicken,” Garcia said.

The fallout was understandably negative despite a quick apology from Garcia.

Although Garcia dismissed the notion on Friday at Dove Mountain that his reference to “twisted” conventions was based on his recent social snafus, he did concede that a particularly nasty rules issue earlier this season in Abu Dhabi had been on his mind.

European Tour rules officials had Garcia return to the course in January early the next morning after his opening round in Abu Dhabi to review a possible violation when he was shown tapping down a pitch mark. Garcia was cleared of any violation, but the incident was a large part of his motivation on Friday.

Perhaps Garcia would not be the obvious choice as the front man for PSAs extolling the virtues of golf, but his message is just as relevant.

“That’s what is great about this game, the inherent idea of fair play,” Graeme McDowell said. “You can say a lot about Sergio, but he’s passionate about playing the game fairly.”

After a contentious 12 months in golf, Garcia’s was a message worth listening to regardless of the messenger.

“I was definitely surprised, but sometimes it is fun to be out there as friends like you are at home,” said Fowler, who added that the delay at No. 6 didn’t impact his play on the hole.

It may not have the marketing ring of “These guys are good,” but friends having fun is worth repeating.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

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.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

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

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

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.

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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."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

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.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

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.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.