Garcia Still Looking for Major Breakthrough

By Associated PressJune 11, 2008, 4:00 pm
2008 U.S. OpenSAN DIEGO -- Last year, he almost won a major.
This year, he won an almost-major.
What Sergio Garcia would really like to do this week is take the 'almost' out of play.
The next chance for the latest -- does it really need to be said? -- Best Player to Never Win a Major is the U.S. Open, beginning Thursday at Torrey Pines.
'I don't think about it too much,' Garcia said. 'I've tried to make a positive out of it. Like anyone, my goal is to win tournaments, win majors, try to become the best player I can be.'
Could he be rounding into form just in time for what is widely hailed as the toughest test in golf? The recent results say 'Yes.'
He overcame his balky putter, the sinking feeling from a three-year winless streak and whatever other demons may follow him to win THE PLAYERS Championship five weeks ago.
Garcia stiffed a wedge into arguably the most famous and treacherous hole in golf -- the island-green 17th -- in a playoff to win what the tour would like to be considered golf's fifth major.
That tournament's place in golf is debatable. What isn't is the strength of the field (the toughest in golf), the unmatched prize money ($1.62 million for first) and the fact that, to Garcia, the feeling coming down the stretch at Sawgrass was very much like what he experienced last year at the British Open.
It was a much different ending at Carnoustie, where Garcia squandered a three-stroke lead, barely missed a putt that would have won it on No. 18 and lost in a playoff to Padraig Harrington. Afterward, he famously -- or infamously -- griped that forces greater than just the competition seemed to plague him.
But while the emotion of the moment got the best of him there, a year later, he chalks it up simply as a learning experience -- every bit as beneficial as the one last month at TPC.
'Every time you're trying to win a big event like those two, of course you're a little bit nervous and you're trying to control your emotions and stuff,' Garcia said. 'But they were both great experiences. I learned from both of them. I'm looking forward to going through the same motions again this week.'
Though the British and TPC are each difficult in their own way, the U.S. Open earns its reputation as the toughest major because of the unpredictable rough, the narrow fairways, the glassy greens -- in all, the USGA's ability to transform a place like Torrey Pines into something totally different from what it is during the regular tour stop here each January.
'The way they have set it up with different tees, different lengths, it can play so many different ways that it's going to be very interesting to see how the scores turn out,' Tiger Woods said.
Possibly helping Sergio, and the rest of the other 154 players in the field, is that Woods hasn't played a competitive round since the Masters. He had surgery on his left knee to clean out cartilage and said that while he's fit to play this week, he's at less than 100 percent.
'Is it fully recovered?' Woods said. 'Probably not.'
It will be hard to find anyone willing to call Woods vulnerable, however.
'It's like Big Brown, with a crack' in his hoof, Garcia said. 'He was still the favorite.'
Reminded that Big Brown finished last of nine horses at the Belmont last weekend, Garcia quipped, 'Still a top 10.'
Top 10s, of course, aren't what interest players like Garcia anymore. For almost a decade, his talent has put him in a select handful of players thought to have the stuff to challenge Woods someday.
Nobody has cashed in on their promise yet. Garcia is still young enough, at 28, to have a chance to do it on any given week.
He says he's happier with his short game than he has been in the past, and felt good with wedge in hand last week at the St. Jude Championship, where he shot a closing-round 66 to finish tied for fourth.
'It's been a while since I've been able to achieve that, to have a decent score without striking the ball like I normally do,' Garcia said.
He's also been feeling better of late about his putting, which was largely to blame for the three-year victory drought.
And before the putting, it was that impossible-to-watch pre-swing routine that seemed to stymie Garcia's progress.
He spit in the cup at Doral. He signed an incorrect scorecard at the PGA. He melted down more than once in the final round of other majors.
The list goes on.
It has led Garcia to concede that, as much as the physical and mechanical parts of his game, it's what's upstairs that might really make a difference at this point in his career.
He is no longer 'El Nino' -- The Boy -- but a full-grown man who the golf world has seen grow up through some very good, and very awkward, moments.
None of them have included him holding up a trophy at a major.
'I think all these years have really made me mature and gotten me to know myself even better as a golfer, and as a person, and kind of control myself even better when I'm coming down the stretch,' Garcia said.
'We'll see if we can start achieving that.'
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Open
  • Getty Images

    Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:32 pm

    SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

    He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the early 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

    ''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

    Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

    Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots out of the lead among those who played Friday morning. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

    Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, might have a long stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

    Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and was outside the cut. He was in jeopardy of missing his second straight cut, depending on afternoon scoring.

    Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

    The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

    Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

    ''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

    The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

    ''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

    Getty Images

    Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

    RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

    Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

    ''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

    On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

    ''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

    Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

    ''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

    Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

    Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

    ''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

    Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

    First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.

    Getty Images

    Football coach hates golf: Don't need practice swearing

    By Jason CrookApril 20, 2018, 10:15 pm

    Some football coaches are a little more talkative than others. On one side of the spectrum, there's Bill Belichick. On the other sits Washington State football coach Mike Leach.

    Leach always delivers the goods, and when asked recently if he liked golf, he didn't hold back:

    As wrong as the 57-year-old is on the topic (golf is awesome), the man makes some hilarious points:

    • “It’s boring. I don’t care where that ball goes.”

    • "Golfers are always practicing their swing. But you know what I never did? I never practice fishing in my living room.”

    • "They'll line up over the ball and they'll say they're going to do something that you can't do with a sniper rifle and a scope, but they're going to do it with a stick and a ball."

    • “Golf’s pretty much for people that don’t swear effectively enough or need practice. And so there are people that need golf, and I don’t think I do.”

    So in conclusion, it's confirmed: Mike Leach - not a golf guy.

    Getty Images

    Quiros takes 1-shot lead in Morocco

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 8:22 pm

    RABAT, Morocco - Alvaro Quiros shot a solid 2-under 70 in windy conditions to push into a one-shot lead after two rounds of the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco on Friday.

    Quiros fought the elements, carding seven birdies and five bogeys to move to 7 under overall and take the outright lead at the halfway point of the European Tour event.

    The Spaniard was one clear of Andrew Dodt, who moved into contention with a 4-under 68 at the Royal Golf Dar Es Salam course. Dodt dropped two shots in his first six holes but the Australian recovered from that shaky start to collect four birdies and an eagle.

    Full-field scores from the Trophee Hassan II

    Erik van Rooyen of South Africa was another shot back in third on 5 under after his 71.

    Bradley Dredge of Wales, who shared the first-round lead with Quiros, slipped off the pace with a 1-over 73. He's tied for fourth with Austin Connelly of Canada (71), 4 under par and three shots behind Quiros.