State of mind: Garcia comfortable in Texas

By Rex HoggardMay 19, 2016, 10:58 pm

IRVING, Texas – Castellon, Spain, is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the east and the mountainous Sistema Ibérico area to the west. It's known for its production of citrus and vegetables.

There is little that would remind one of Castellon in Texas, and yet to Sergio Garcia the Lone Star state feels like home.

“Texas has always been good to me,” the Spaniard who was born in Castellon said with a shrug on Thursday at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Following a bogey-free 63 on Day 1 at the weather-delayed Nelson, Garcia referenced the traditional winds players face when the PGA Tour visits Texas and conditions that are normally hard and fast.

“I've always enjoyed these kind of golf courses that usually are a little bit firmer than today,” Garcia said. “It's always a little bit breezy and you have to place the ball in the right spots and I've always enjoyed that kind of golf.”

Never mind that TPC Four Seasons Resort was neither hard and fast nor windy on Thursday, which led Garcia to give the ultimate compliment.

“It just kind of brings me to my comfort level,” said Garcia, who started on No. 10 and scorched his second nine with four birdies and an eagle to grab the early lead.

As unquantifiable as that may seem, it’s the only way to explain Garcia’s record in Texas.

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In 1999, El Nino – whose weather system namesake was blamed for Thursday’s early storms that delayed the start of play by more than two hours – played his first professional event at the Nelson to set an early standard.

He opened with a 62 on the old Cottonwood Valley layout and finished the week tied third. Five years later he recorded his fourth victory on the PGA Tour in Dallas.

“Shooting that round and finishing third to kind of get my career started here was, it was unbelievable for me,” Garcia said of that first exposure to Texas golf. “It gave me a lot of confidence, it relaxed me a lot. It made my year a lot easier.”

That victory in ’04 was made even more special by one of the players he beat. Tiger Woods held the outright 36-hole lead that week but faded on the weekend and finished tied for fourth.

There is certainly something to the theory that Texas golf suits Garcia’s style of play, a ball-striker who normally gets better as the conditions become more difficult.

On Day 3 in ’04, for example, Garcia fondly remembered doing something “a little bit stupid,” on his way to victory at the Nelson, hitting 13 of 14 fairways and finishing the day a perfect 18-for-18 in greens in regulation.

But mostly he remembers being congratulated by Nelson, the longtime host who died in 2006 after being a fixture at the Dallas-area event for nearly five decades.

“I remember Byron taking a picture with me and some great memories,” he said. “I actually saw the picture this week in my room. I have my trophies, my Byron Nelson trophies at home. Every time I see them it reminds me of this place and Byron and the kind of legend he was.”

But then Garcia’s Lone Star affinity goes beyond Dallas. Two of Garcia’s eight Tour titles came in Texas, including his first triumph on the PGA Tour in 2001 at Colonial, and he’s earned $3.095 million of his $41.5 million in career earnings in Texas events.

Being a Ryder Cup year will always provide extra motivation to play well for Garcia, a staple for the European team and a thorn in the American squad’s side since 1999.

He’s also been trending in all the right directions in recent weeks. He finished third two weeks ago at the European Tour event he hosts in Spain and dropped a close decision to Adam Scott earlier this season at the Honda Classic where he finished a stroke back.

“I have been playing decent and obviously I still feel like I can play better but, hopefully, I can keep this momentum going and have a good solid week before the U.S. Open,” he said.

Still, Garcia is nearly four years removed from his last Tour title and his lone victory in the last year came in December on the Asian Tour, so if he chooses not to overthink his record in Texas it’s perfectly understandable.

“I’ve done fairly well pretty much every time I played here,” he said simply.

At this point in an eventful career it’s best to keep things simple, if not understated. Exactly what you would expect from someone who feels at home in Texas.

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.