Garcia Hopes Putting Leads to Big Year

By Associated PressJanuary 5, 2006, 5:00 pm
04 Mercedes ChampionshipsKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Sergio Garcia stuck two white tees into the practice green at Kapalua and started his drill, one stroke after another with the putter sliding between the two pegs.
 
Garcia noticed watching videotape that when the pressure was on, he rarely hit the putts squarely on the blade. That might explain his frustration over 2005, when he felt as though he hit the ball well enough to win just about every week, yet had only one trophy'the Booz Allen Classic'to show for it.
 
One win was the least I could get the way I played last year, he said.
 
Sergio Garcia
Segio Garcia ranked 196th on the PGA Tour in putting in 2005.
The short game is the only thing stopping him from a big year.
 
Garcia hopes to change that starting Thursday, when he joins 27 others in a winners-only field at the Mercedes Championships that officially starts the PGA Tour season. Its the first of 48 events on the PGA Tour schedule.
 
Hes one of only three players from the top 10 in the world ranking at Kapalua, largely because Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen decided to stay home and wait a few weeks before making their 06 debut.
 
And the 25-year-old Spaniard certainly has the experience to win on the Plantation Course, having won four years ago by making a 10-foot birdie putt in a playoff to beat David Toms.
 
That image of Garcia rolling a putt that disappears into the cup seems like a rarity now.
 
He hit the ball so well in 2005 that he led the tour in greens hit in regulation at 71.8 percent. Length has never been a problem, and Garcia averaged more than 300 yards to rank 10th.
 
But the statistic that stands out is putting -- 196th out of 202 players.
 
Garcia is sensitive when talking about the flat stick, because he realizes how much it cost him last year. Ask him about what needs to improve in his game, and he broadly mentions his short game. But he later said that his chipping is vastly improved, and no longer a problem.
 
The putting, he said, is the one that has been, you know, giving me a headache.
 
A putting tip from Adam Scott carried him to victory at Congressional the week before the U.S. Open, but nothing is more glaring than his collapse at the Wachovia Championship, where Garcia tied a PGA Tour record by blowing a six-shot lead in the final round. The only other player to do that was Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters.
 
Garcia started that round with a three-putt, missing his par from 30 inches. He was the first player to drop out of a three-man playoff when he three-putted the first extra hole.
 
Thats where the tape comes in.
 
Garcia said it was made by a friend at Sky Sports in Britain, and it showed that he struck his putts slightly off-center in big moments. Thats when he went to the two tees, for instant feedback.
 
As soon as you clip of the tees, you know youve done it wrong, he said. I feel like Im finally getting over it. My strike is better, Im hitting the ball more consistently in the middle of the club face. Ive just got to go out there and by seeing these good putts, believe Im going to make them.
 
Stuart Appleby is the two-time defending champion at Kapalua, and he certainly had no trouble on the greens. The putting surfaces have been redone with a strain of grass that allows it to grow taller so it can be cut shorter, leaving greens that have been smoother.
 
Applebys only victory last year came at Kapalua. He rushed home to Australia where his American-born wife gave birth to a daughter, Ella.
 
A victory would allow Appleby to join Gene Littler (1955-57) as the only players to win this tournament three straight times. It was called the Tournament of Championship when Littler won three straight in Las Vegas.
 
I know what I have to do, Appleby said. I know how to play, I know what sort of golf is required to win here. Having Phil and Tiger not here, Retief, is a good thing for me. Maybe theyre a little scared.
 
Garcia is scared of no one. He simply needs to make putts.
 
Despite only one victory last year, he would hardly call 2005 a failure. He had eight finishes in the top 10, gave himself fleeting hope at the U.S. Open, a tie for fifth at the British Open.
 
And hes back at Kapalua, one of only eight players who returned from last years winners-only field.
 
Its more frustrating to play badly, like I did in 2003 when I was going through the swing changes, or maybe 2000, said Garcia, alluding to the only two seasons he failed to win since joining the PGA Tour. That to me is more frustrating than playing really well and maybe only winning once or twice, because at least you see youre giving yourself chances.
 
The most horrendous thing is seeing that you dont have a chance.
 
Garcia is expecting to have several opportunities this year. The key is to do something with them.
 
If I can manage the short game, he said, then it could be a huge year.
 
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    Schauffele just fine being the underdog

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

    Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

    Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

    Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

    “All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

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    Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

    Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

    So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

    Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Jordan Spieth: 7/4

    Xander Schauffele: 5/1

    Kevin Kisner: 11/2

    Tiger Woods: 14/1

    Francesco Molinari: 14/1

    Rory McIlroy: 14/1

    Kevin Chappell: 20/1

    Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

    Alex Noren: 25/1

    Zach Johnson: 30/1

    Justin Rose: 30/1

    Matt Kuchar: 40/1

    Webb Simpson: 50/1

    Adam Scott: 80/1

    Tony Finau: 80/1

    Charley Hoffman: 100/1

    Austin Cook: 100/1

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    Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat

    By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 7:49 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.

    For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.

    By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.

    But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.

    As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.

    “This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”

    Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.

    As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.

    After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.

    “I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”

    But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.

    Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.

    “I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.

    There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.

    Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par. 

    And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.

    As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.

    “We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”

    Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.

    Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.

    The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.

    Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.

    It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.

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    Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

    One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

    McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

    McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

    “I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”