Sergio All Alone in Youth Pursuit of Tiger
That was the summer of '99 at the PGA Championship.
More than six years later, Garcia is still running after the world's No. 1 player and hasn't made up much ground. The latest opportunity came Sunday at Torrey Pines, where he played with Woods in the final group for the first time since the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.
He hooked his opening tee shot and made bogey. He blasted out over the lip of a fairway bunker and over the green at No. 2, making another bogey and sending Garcia to a 40 on the front nine. To his credit, Garcia hung around long enough to give himself a long eagle putt on the 18th hole to join the playoff at the Buick Invitational.
He wound up with a three-putt par and a 75.
There will be other chances, for no other reason than the 26-year-old Garcia is blessed with immense talent that should be enough to overcome a suspect putting stroke. But beating Woods when it counts -- and the 'Battle at Bighorn' doesn't -- remains a mental hurdle.
'What can you do?' Garcia said. 'I wanted to play well, there's no doubt about that. It's been a long week, a long trip from Abu Dhabi. I felt a little bit tired all week long, and unfortunately it caught up with me today. But that's all you can do, and go on to next week.'
That he failed to beat Woods from the final group is no disgrace.
Perhaps more alarming is that of players in their 20s, Garcia is one of the few making progress toward becoming a veritable star and one day dethroning Woods.
Only six players in their 20s have won at least two times on the PGA Tour, and three of those guys -- Ben Crane, Rory Sabbatini and Vaughn Taylor -- are a few months away from graduating to their 30s. For those who don't know much about Taylor, he is a sharp kid who hits it long and twice won the Reno-Tahoe Open opposite a World Golf Championship event.
Garcia has won six times on the PGA Tour, all of them on either strong courses (Westchester, Colonial) or against strong fields (Mercedes Championships, Byron Nelson Championship). His resume includes 10 victories overseas, and three appearances in the Ryder Cup before turning 25.
The only other young player in the elite category is Adam Scott, who won The Players Championship at 23 and has four trophies from the PGA Tour (although the tour doesn't recognize his 36-hole, playoff victory at Riviera).
What puts Garcia in a league of his own among young players is the majors. He has seven top 10s in the majors, and had a shot to win on the back nine in four of them. Scott, a 25-year-old from Australia, has one top 10 and only last year made the cut in all four majors for the first time.
Ben Curtis, for those keeping score, is the only player currently in his 20s to have won a major.
No doubt, it's getting harder to win on the PGA Tour with so much depth of talent, and with so many veterans hitting their stride in their late 30s and 40s, such as David Toms, Vijay Singh and Kenny Perry.
And it would be unfair to expect anyone to reach the bar set by Woods, who won 46 times and 10 majors in his 20s. Ditto for Phil Mickelson, who won 16 times in his 20s, or David Duval, who won 13 times and a major before turning 30. Those are special talents.
But the search continues for a young player who has the tools to challenge the best.
And while it might start with length, it sure doesn't end there.
Four weeks into the season -- hardly a good gauge -- seven of the top 10 players in driving distance are in their 20s, starting with Bubba Watson who is getting shamelessly promoted as the future of golf. Watson indeed might go on to do great things in the next few years, but if length was all that mattered, he probably would have reached the big leagues before he was 27.
Woods says the future of golf lies with players who are bigger, stronger and more athletic -- guys built like linebackers who can generate enormous club speed and have been taught the technical side of golf from an early age.
But a few minutes later, he was asked the difference between a great swing and a great game.
'You've got to have the guts to get it done,' Woods said. 'You can have a picture-perfect swing. You can put the club in every position. But can you pull the trigger when you have a 3-iron over water on the last hole when you need to make 3? Can you do it? That's when it comes down to, 'What do you have inside?'
'That's something you can't teach.'
Woods made that observation on the eve of the Buick Invitational. Five days later, Garcia had more than 3-iron over the water to the 18th green on the South Course. He needed a 3. And he hit the green.
He just didn't make the putt.
The problem Woods sees with most young players is they have one shot, one swing, one trajectory. He noted that golf balls don't allow for as much movement anymore, but they can still be shaped.
'I don't see the kids trying that,' he said.
One of the young players not cut out of the same cloth might be Ryan Moore, who doesn't have a coach, psychologist or nutritionist. He became the first player since Woods to earn his card without going to Q-school, although he has started this year by missing his first two cuts.
Meanwhile, the search goes on.
And while he had a Sunday to forget, it starts with Garcia.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.
Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.
The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.
Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.
Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.
Third-round tee times for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.
Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.
Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.
Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.
4:15AM ET: Gavin Green
4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed
4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose
4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton
4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley
5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner
5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson
5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)
5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood
5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello
6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford
6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma
6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele
6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood
6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na
6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin
7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim
7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira
7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters
7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li
7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker
7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink
8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook
8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris
8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim
8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari
8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson
8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell
9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka
9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott
9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren
9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone
9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett
10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler
10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell
10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau
10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen
10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele
10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood
11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson
Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.
He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.
“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.
At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.
Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.
“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”
Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?
Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.
Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.
“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”
Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.
Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.
“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.
More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.
“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”