Garcia Charges to AmEx Lead

By Sports NetworkOctober 2, 2003, 4:00 pm
WOODSTOCK, Ga. -- Spain's Sergio Garcia fired a 5-under-par 65 on Thursday to take the lead at the World Golf Championships-American Express Championship. He owns a one-shot lead over Tim Herron and Rocco Mediate at the Crabapple Course at Capital City Club.
Tiger Woods, the defending champion who is trying to pick up some additional victories in his bid to be named PGA Tour Player of the Year, posted a 3-under-par 67 and is tied for fourth place with K.J. Choi.
'The golf course is playing very difficult out there. The fairways are obviously a little bit on the narrow side and the rough is up,' said Woods, who won this tournament in 1999 and 2002. 'Because I haven't played in a month, I was nervous on that first tee. I'm still trying to get that ball in play somehow, and I did.'
Woods is in the middle of the Player of the Year hunt and for the first time since 1999, he is not the clear-cut favorite.
'It all takes care of itself if you just play well,' said Woods, referring to the Player of the Year race. 'It's in the back of your mind but when you're out there playing, you just play.'
Among the other top contenders, Masters champion Mike Weir posted a 1-under-par 69 and is tied for eighth place with Loren Roberts, Jyoti Randhawa, Peter O'Malley, and NEC Invitational winner Darren Clarke.
U.S. Open winner Jim Furyk and tour money leader Vijay Singh each fashioned rounds of even-par 70. Davis Love III, a four-time champion in '03, struggled to a 4-over-par 74.
Garcia is not among the contenders for the year-end award as he has battled through swing changes throughout the 2003 campaign. He owns one top 10, a tie for fourth at the Buick Classic, and ranks 103rd on the money list.
'I really feel like when I'm on, I don't think there's many guys out there that can hit it better than me,' said Garcia. 'I knew it was going to take some time and it was going to be hard, but I think in the long run, it's going to be good.'
Garcia wasted little time in breaking into red figures as he ran home a 15-footer for birdie at the second. At the par-3 sixth hole, Garcia knocked a 6-iron to 10 feet to set up his second birdie of the front nine. Garcia holed an eight-footer for birdie at the ninth to make the turn at 32.
At the par-5 12th, Garcia lost his drive in the right rough, where he pitched out to the fairway. He hit a lob-wedge from 114 yards to 10 feet and converted the birdie try.
He broke out of the logjam at 4 under at the 17th. Garcia nailed a 330-yard drive down the fairway and hit his second to 11 feet. He sank the birdie putt and held on to sole possession of first at the last when he rolled in a tricky four-footer.
'It definitely has started well, so hopefully we'll keep it going,' said Garcia. 'Hopefully, I'll keep playing as well as I played today and we'll see what happens.'
Herron also started quickly on Thursday with a six-foot birdie at the first and a 45-footer for birdie at the second. He parred his next nine holes but once again tallied back-to-back birdies at 12 and 13 to move into second place.
Herron has enjoyed one of his best years on tour in 2003. He collected three top-4 finishes in the first two months of the season, then tied for 14th at the PGA Championship and added two more top-5s in his next two events.
'I'm getting comfortable being up there again,' said Herron. 'I had a couple of years where I was kind of struggling. You lose your confidence, but my confidence has come back. I feel like if I hit the ball well, I putt well, and there's nothing really to stop me. I just have to stay out of my own way.'
Mediate, who took most of the summer months off, was 4 under on his front nine but mixed a pair of birdies and bogeys on his second nine to join Herron in a share of second.
'I just drove it into most of the fairways, and that's the whole key,' said Mediate. 'I mean, otherwise you're dead. There's no playing from the rough.'
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.