Wind breaker: Harrington channels old form

By Will GrayFebruary 26, 2015, 10:40 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The smile was back.

The toothy grin worn to a trio of major titles, the one that Padraig Harrington once took with him during his trip into golf’s stratosphere, was on full display Thursday at the Honda Classic.

With winds whipping across PGA National, Harrington opened with a 3-under 67, his lowest score on the PGA Tour in nearly nine months. A full decade removed from his Honda win across the street at the Country Club of Mirasol, he's two shots off the 18-hole pace.

At age 43, Harrington’s weathered look is that of a man whose career approaches its third decade, but he strode to the podium with the confidence of a player equipped with plenty of experience in blustery conditions.

“On a windy day, momentum is bigger than any other day,” Harrington said.

Harrington had no issue creating momentum in the opening round, countering his lone bogey of the day at No. 2 with a birdie at No. 3. He added three more circles to his scorecard, including a pair of birdies across his final three holes to move onto the first page of the leaderboard. 

Much has changed for the Irishman since his major wins in 2007 and 2008; following last year’s Wyndham Championship, his five-year PGA Tour exemption based on his ’08 victories expired. While he had a one-time career money list exemption at his disposal, Harrington chose to save it, opting instead to patch together a schedule based on sponsor invites and past-champion status.

Thus far, the strategy hasn’t panned out. Harrington has missed the cut in five of eight starts this season and remains in search of his first top-50 finish.

Honda Classic : Articles, videos and photos

“I came out starting the year with really high expectations, and I fell right back into struggling,” Harrington said. “I was confident in doing the right things. I just really, really struggled.”

Even the most talented golfers can wander in search of that elusive spark, the moment when things finally click. For Harrington, it came last week during, of all things, a third-round 76 at the Northern Trust Open. His mental approach to shots began to change, and he bounced back with a final-round 71 at Riviera.

The confidence from his West Coast epiphany has carried over into this week, although Harrington also cited another source of inspiration – a recent “summons” to dinner from mental coach Bob Rotella, with whom Harrington has worked for most of his career.

“I think we’ve had the intervention before,” Harrington said. “He’s like the school teacher. He tells you, and it’s up to you to do your homework and do it right.”

The two met Tuesday night at a restaurant near PGA National, their first chance to connect in person since the end of 2014. Rotella wanted an opportunity to chat openly with his longtime pupil without the distractions that a more-populated setting might create.

“I said, 'Let’s go to dinner together,'” Rotella said. “I just wanted a chance to get together and really spend a bunch of time.”

The issue, according to Rotella, has been convincing Harrington to embrace the notion that added practice does not necessarily mean better results – that less, sometimes, can be more.

“He’s been taking so much time off. I mean, we’ve been trying to get him to forever,” Rotella said. “Someone finally documented for him that when he’s more rested, he has more club head speed, so he liked that. Wouldn’t do it for the sake of doing it.”

Harrington has always been seen as a player who tinkers with his game, making changes that led to three major titles in the span of 13 months but also changes that have contributed to his subsequent decline. He won on the Asian Tour in December to end a four-year worldwide winless drought, but his last PGA Tour title remains the 2008 PGA Championship. He teed off this week at No. 297 in the world rankings.

Having successfully battled the crosswinds on the Champion Course for 18 holes, Harrington hopes to build upon his opening round as he seeks his first top-10 finish on Tour in nearly two years.

“When I wasn’t playing great, I kept walking off the golf course feeling like I played 70 shots and signed for 73 shots,” he said. “Today, I feel like I played in 70 but signed for 67, so that’s a nice place to be.”

Rotella noted that when Harrington is at his best, he plays the game devoid of mid-round swing keys and mental cues.

“He doesn’t think about any technical stuff on the golf course. He really plays golf,” Rotella said. “Playing golf is just seeing the shot and hitting it, not judging. Just go get it and hit it again until you run out of holes.”

On a day when many of the game’s best were humbled by difficult conditions, Harrington displayed the poise and control of a savvy veteran. Rotella remains optimistic that his pupil’s world ranking will soon be a more accurate reflection of his ability.

“The good news with him is that we’ve seen it before,” he said. “Now it’s a question of if he can sustain it.”

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Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.