Garcia searching for enthusiasm in golf

By Associated PressMarch 17, 2011, 12:20 am

Transistions ChampionshipPALM HARBOR, Fla. – So much about Sergio Garcia looks the same as ever. So much about him is uncertain – mostly what’s in his heart.

Setting up over a shot, he slowly releases his fingers from the grip and carefully replaces them in just the right position, checking himself one last time before unleashing a swing that made him of the best ball-strikers in golf.

But when he missed the cut at the PGA Championship last August, the 31-year-old Spaniard took a 10-week break to see if he could rediscover his enthusiasm for golf.

Garcia returns to the PGA Tour for the first time in seven months at the Transitions Championship at Innisbrook, which starts Thursday. He played four times on the European Tour late last year after his break and had mixed results. He played three times on the European Tour during its Middle East swing and had more of the same.

“I definitely feel like I want to be out there,” Garcia said. “So that always helps.”

He has a long road in front of him. It was only two years ago that Garcia rose to No. 2 in the world and had a chance to replace Tiger Woods atop the world ranking. Since then, it has been a steady drop all the way to No. 85.

One reason he waited until the middle of March to play his first U.S. tour event was because of his ranking. He no longer was eligible for the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona for the top 64, or the Cadillac Championship last week at Doral for the top 50.

He’s in the Masters from winning The Players Championship three years ago.

Garcia attributes some of his malaise to splitting up two years ago with the daughter of Greg Norman, telling the Times of London later that year it was the first time he had ever truly been in love.

That’s about as far as Garcia goes in analyzing his passion for golf.

“It was a mix of things,” he said Wednesday after his pro-am round on the Copperhead course. “A couple of things off the golf course didn’t help. And then I just started playing not great. Knowing how I can play and what I’m capable of doing, I don’t like to settle for less.

“So I guess a mix of those things kind of pulled down a little bit,” he said. “But we are looking forward to it now.”

To what degree? Only he knows.

Garcia last won a tournament in the Castello Masters toward the end of the 2008 season. He missed the Ryder Cup last year for the first time in his career, although he was at Celtic Manor as a vice captain. Since then, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer have gone to No. 1, with Graeme McDowell, Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy poised to challenge for the top.

How badly does Garcia want to be part of that mix?

“To tell you the truth, I just want to be out there and just want to enjoy playing,” Garcia said. “And hopefully, just play better as I get on. Whatever happens, happens.”

He is part of a strong field at Innisbrook, which includes the No. 1 player for the first time since 2005. Kaymer will be playing in the opening two days with Bubba Watson and Nick Watney, who is coming off a big win last week at Doral.

Garcia is in another feature group with Matteo Manassero, the 17-year-old Italian whose career is similar to Garcia’s in so many ways. Manassero became the youngest British Amateur champion when he won at age 15. Two months later, he tied for 13th in the British Open at Turnberry while playing the first two rounds with Tom Watson.

Garcia first started playing the PGA Tour as a teenager who didn’t even have a driver’s license. Ditto for Manassero, who is still a year away from taking driving lessons in Italy.

Last year, Manassero became the youngest winner in European Tour history – winning on Garcia’s home course, of all things.

“I’ve always been a fan of him,” Manassero said. “He’s a great guy and he’s a fantastic golf player. And he’s had a bad moment, but definitely you can see – everybody can see – he’s coming out of this moment. I definitely want him to get back to winning golf tournaments and to get back as he was.”

Garcia tied for ninth in the Qatar Masters, then got thrown right into it a week later when he was paired with Woods, his old nemesis, in the final round at Dubai. Both struggled in the wind and tied for 20th.

“As you gain a bit of confidence, it kind of helps,” he said. “There’s nothing better than confidence for your mental game. When you are feeling confident, you don’t think about things. You just kind of do them. I think as we keep getting better and better, that will happen.”

Garcia is not in a big hurry to get back to where he feels he belongs – the elite in golf. By age 30, he already had 18 wins around the world and played on five Ryder Cup teams. He has been runner-up in three majors, including the PGA Championship at 19.

For a guy who is 31, Garcia must feel as though he’s been around forever.

Now, the goal is to feel like a kid again.

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Watch: Pieters snaps club ... around his neck

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 1:19 pm

After opening in 3-over 75, Thomas Pieters was in no mood for more poor play on Friday.

Unfortunately for Pieters, he bogeyed two of his first three holes in the second round of the BMW PGA Championship and then didn't like his second shot at the par-5 fourth.

Someone - or some thing - had to pay, and an innocent iron bore the brunt of Pieters' anger.

Pieters made par on the hole, but at 5 over for the tournament, he was five shots off the cut line.

It's not the first time a club has faced Pieters' wrath. 

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Woods would 'love' to see Tour allow shorts

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:59 pm

Players on the European Tour are allowed to wear shorts during practices and pro-ams.

The PGA of America permitted players to show some leg while prepping for last year’s PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods would like to see the PGA Tour follow suit.

"I would love it," he said Thursday in a Facebook Live with Bridgestone Golf. "We play in some of the hottest climates on the planet. We usually travel with the sun, and a lot of our events are played in the summer, and then on top of that when we have the winter months here a lot of the guys go down to South Africa and Australia where it's summer down there.

"It would be nice to wear shorts. Even with my little chicken legs, I still would like to wear shorts."

Caddies are currently allowed to wear shorts on Tour, during events.

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Feasting again: McIlroy shoots 65 to lead BMW PGA

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:04 pm

Updated at 9:42 a.m. ET

Rory McIlroy made seven birdies and no bogeys on Friday for a 7-under 65 and the second-round lead at the BMW PGA Championship.

After opening in 67, McIlroy was among the early groups out on Day 2 at Wentworth Club. He made three birdies and no bogeys on the par-35 front nine on Friday, and then went on a run after the turn.

McIlroy made four consecutive birdies, beginning at the par-5 12th. That got him to 12 under, overall, and gave him a clear advantage over the field. With two closing par-5s, a very low number was in sight. But, as he did on Day 1, McIlroy finished par-par.

"I've made four pars there [on 17 and 18] when I really should be making at least two birdies, but I played the other par-5s well," McIlroy said. "It all balances itself out."

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

McIlroy has made 14 birdies and two bogeys through two rounds. At 12 under, he has a three-stroke lead over Sam Horsfield.

"The work has paid off, to some degree," McIlroy said of his practice with swing coach Michael Bannon. "I still feel like I'm hitting some loose shots out there. But, for the most part, it's been really good. If I can keep these swing thoughts and keep going in the right direction, hopefully this is the type of golf I'll be able to produce."

This event has been feast or famine for McIlroy. He won here in 2014, but has three missed cuts in his other three starts. This week, however, he’ll be around for the weekend and is in position for his first European Tour victory since the 2016 Irish Open and his second worldwide victory of the year (Arnold Palmer Invitational).

"I have the confidence that I'm playing well and I can go out and try to just replicate what I did the day before," McIlroy said about his weekend approach with the lead. "On the first tee box tomorrow I'll be thinking about what I did today. Trying to just keep the same thoughts, make the same swings. I went a couple better today than I did yesterday. I'm not sure I'll keep that progression going but something similiar tomorrow would be nice."

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."