A major, a marriage, and maybe a claret jug

By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2017, 3:36 pm

SOUTHPORT, England – Cuanto más azúcar más dulce.

The literal translation from Sergio Garcia’s native Spanish is, “The more sugar, the sweeter,” but a more nuanced meaning was etched into the 37-year-old’s face when he bounded into the media center at Royal Birkdale to chat with scribes at The Open.

There is a notable spring in Garcia’s step these days that’s been missing at various points over his lengthy career, although when asked about his improved outlook he appeared to purposely gloss over the finer details.

“I don't think so. Do I seem like a different person?” was his response when asked if he has been magically transformed by his victory earlier this year at Augusta National.

For personal purposes it’s probably best Garcia doesn’t indulge in such an emotional deep dive at this junction in his career. Healthy, happy, hungry – nothing to see here.

This week is, after all, a big one for El Nino. The Open was always the one he envisioned winning growing up in Castellon, Spain.

“As a European, The Open is the one you relate to because I remember in Spain as a kid, we couldn't see the Masters on TV. The British Open, you could see it here and there, and also it was during the day,” he said. “You do kind of really relate to this one a little bit more.”

Garcia’s resume at the ancient gathering also feeds that narrative. It was at The Open where Padraig Harrington broke his heart a decade ago at Carnoustie and Rory McIlroy held him off in ’14 at Royal Liverpool for what are, by any measure, gutting near-misses.

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Everything about links golf works in Garcia’ favor. His ball-striking, which has always been the standard others aspire to, was a perfect fit for the cold, wet wind that can make the game’s oldest championship such a test, and his sometimes-pedestrian putting is mitigated by what are normally the slowest greens on the Grand Slam dance card.

He played his first major in ’96 at Royal Lytham as a 16-year-old amateur, and began his Grand Slam career as a professional three years later at Carnoustie when he shot 89-83 and sobbed on his mother's shoulder on his way out of Scotland.

That he arrives on the English coast this week with such momentum, both on and off the course, only fuels the notion that his name is destined to be etched into the claret jug.

Breaking through the Grand Slam ceiling at Augusta National has undoubtedly helped, but there are limitations to the correlation.

“Winning the Masters was amazing and it does give you a little bit of extra confidence, and I've been having a very solid year. So all of those things are great,” Garcia said. “But every week is different, and you don't know how you're going to feel when you go out there on the course.”

Perhaps, but off the course Garcia’s fortunes have improved dramatically in recent years and there is an undeniable cause-and-effect relationship between his personal and professional outlook.

Earlier this year he announced his engagement to Angela Akins and the two are scheduled to marry next week, and his performance on the course has dovetailed with that milestone. He began the year with a victory at the Dubai Desert Classic, hasn’t missed a cut anywhere in the world in 2017 and finished runner-up in his last start (the BMW International Open).

By comparison, although it’s anecdotal following his high-profile split with then-girlfriend Morgan-Leigh Norman in ’09, Garcia’s game went to a similarly dark place.

After winning The Players in ’08, Garcia went four years without another victory on the PGA Tour, he failed to qualify for the Ryder Cup in ’10 – the only time he’s missed the matches in his career – and tumbled to outside the top 80 in the world ranking.

“I felt I had to stop playing the game for a while,” Garcia said at the time.

Although he’s understandably reluctant to revisit those difficult days, the juxtaposition between his demeanor then and now is dramatic, regardless of how the numbers add up on his scorecard.

Bad bounces no longer burrow into his psyche like they once did and even his pre-Masters major record no longer haunts him the way it once did as evidenced on Monday when he was asked if having a green jacket in his wardrobe somehow makes all of those bridesmaid finishes a little more palatable.

“They're still painful because they're chances that you wish you would have taken and unfortunately you didn't,” he said. “It definitely made the Masters more enjoyable, I would put it that way.”

For a player who has always worn his emotions on his Gore-Tex, there was no denying the smirk that creased across his face when asked if this Open, his 21st start at the championship, is somehow different.

“I am excited about it. I am confident about my possibilities, but I can't tell you if I'm going to be right up there on Sunday with a chance,” he shrugged. “I'm hoping that I will be but unfortunately it doesn't work like that every week.”

Pressure can be relative. Expectations had built for decades before Garcia finally broke through at Augusta National and that really hasn’t changed at the major that has always meant the most to him. The only difference now is that life is still sweet, with or without a trophy.

Trump playing 'quickly' with Tiger, DJ

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 24, 2017, 1:33 pm

Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET

An Instagram user known as hwalks posted photos to her account that included images of Tiger Woods, President Trump and Dustin Johnson Friday at Trump National, as well as video of Woods' swing.

Original story:

Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his return to competition next week at his Hero World Challenge. But first, a (quick) round with the President.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he was going to play at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla., alongside Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Woods and President Trump previously played last December. Trump, who, according to trumpgolfcount.com has played 75 rounds since taking over the presidency, has also played over the last year with Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama.

Chawrasia leads major champs in Hong Kong

By Associated PressNovember 24, 2017, 1:19 pm

HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia extended his lead at the Hong Kong Open to two strokes Friday after a 4-under 66 in the second round.

Chawrasia, who had led by one at the Hong Kong Golf Club, is at 9-under 131 overall and took as much as a five-stroke lead at one point.

''Yesterday I was putting very well, and today, also I make some up and downs. I saved a couple of short putts. That's why I think I'm leading by two shots most probably,'' the Indian said. ''The next two days, I'm just looking forward.''

Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open

Thomas Aiken (64) is second, followed by Alexander Bjork (66), Joakim Lagergren (66), Poom Saksansin (68) and Julian Suri (67) at 5 under 135.

Aiken's round was the lowest of the tournament.

''It is tough out there. The greens are really firm. You've got to hit the fairway,'' Aiken said. ''If you get above the holes, putts can get away from you.''

Justin Rose (69) had six birdies, but three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par 3 12th kept him at 3 under for the tournament.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia (71), playing for the first time in Hong Kong, was at even par, as was defending champion Sam Brazel (71) and 2014 champion Scott Hend (67).

''I have to play better,'' Garcia said. ''The way I felt like I played, it's difficult. This kind of course, you need to play well to shoot a good score.''

Day (68) just one back at Australian Open

By Nick MentaNovember 24, 2017, 6:40 am

Jason Day posted a second-round 68 to move himself just one off the lead held by Lucas Herbert through two rounds at the Emirates Australian Open. Here’s where things stand after 36 holes in Sydney.

Leaderboard: Herbert (-9), Day (-8), Cameron Davis (-7), Anthony Quayle (-6), Matt Jones (-4), Cameron Smith (-4), Nick Cullen (-4), Richard Green (-4)

What it means: Day is in search of his first worldwide victory of 2017. The former world No. 1 last visited the winner’s circle in May 2016, when he won The Players at TPC Sawgrass. A win this week would close out a difficult year for the Aussie who struggled with his game while also helping his mother in her battle with cancer. Day’s last victory on his native soil came in 2013, when he partnered with Adam Scott to win the World Cup of Golf for Australia at Royal Melbourne.

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Round of the day: Herbert followed an opening 67 with a round of 66 to vault himself into the lead at The Australian Golf Club. He made six birdies, including four on his second nine, against a lone bogey to take the outright lead. The 22-year-old, who held the lead at this event last year and captured low-amateur honors in 2014, is coming off a runner-up finish at the NSW Open Championship, which boosted him from 714th to 429th in the Official World Golf Ranking. His 5-under score was matched by Dale Brandt-Richards and Josh Cabban.

Best of the rest: Matt Jones, who won this event over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott two years ago, turned in 4-under 67. Jones is best known to American audiences for his playoff victory at the 2014 Shell Houston Open and for holding the 36-hole lead at the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, which was eventually won by Day. Jones will start the weekend five shots off the lead, at 4 under par.

Biggest disappointment: Spieth has a lot of work to do this weekend if he expects to be in the title picture for the fourth year in a row. Rounds of 70-71 have him eight shots behind the lead held by Herbert. Spieth made a birdie and a bogey on each side Friday to turn in level par. The reigning champion golfer of the year has finished first, second and first at this event over the last three years.

Storyline to watch this weekend: The Australian Open is the first event of the 2018 Open Qualifying Series. The leading three players who finish in the top 10 and who are not otherwise exempt will receive invites into next summer’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Ogilvy urges distance rollback of ball

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 8:49 pm

Add Geoff Ogilvy to the chorus of voices calling for a distance rollback of the golf ball.

In an interview before the start of the Emirates Australian Open, Ogilvy said a "time-out" is needed for governing bodies to deal with the issue.

"It's complete nonsense," he said, according to an Australian website. "In my career, it’s gone from 300 yards was a massive hit to you’re a shorter hitter on tour now, legitimately short. It’s changed the way we play great golf courses and that is the crime. It isn’t that the ball goes 400, that’s neither here nor there. It’s the fact the ball going 400 doesn’t makes Augusta work properly, it functions completely wrong.’’

Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open

Ogilvy used an example from American baseball to help get his point across to an Australian audience.

“Major League Baseball in America, they use wooden bats, and everywhere else in baseball they use aluminium bats,’’ he said. “And when the major leaguers use aluminium bats they don’t even have to touch it and it completely destroys their stadiums. It’s just comedy.

“That’s kind of what’s happened to us at least with the drivers of these big hitters; We’ve completely outgrown the stadiums. So do you rebuild every stadium in the world? That’s expensive. Or make the ball go shorter? It seems relatively simple from that perspective.’’

Ogilvy, an Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, said he believes there will be a rollback, but admitted it would be a "challenge" for manufacturers to produce a ball that flies shorter for pros but does not lose distance when struck by recreational players.