Sergio Spot On So Far at Carnoustie

By Associated PressJuly 19, 2007, 4:00 pm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- Sergio Garcia knew right away there would be no crying at Carnoustie this time.
 
The leaderboard at the British Open already was loaded with rounds under par when Garcia hit 3-iron down the middle of the first fairway. Then his 9-iron settled 8 feet from the cup, and when he rolled that in for birdie, it brought back memories from eight years ago when the worst round of his career began with a triple bogey.
 
Walking off the green, Garcia turned to his caddie and said, 'That's four better than last time.'
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods gets in and out of trouble Thursday at Carnoustie. (Getty Images)
And it only got better -- 24 shots better.
 
Garcia sobbed on his mother's shoulder when he shot 89 at the place called 'Car-Nasty' in 1999. He was all smiles Thursday after a sparking par save from the bunker on the 18th hole gave him a 6-under 65 and a two-shot lead over Paul McGinley, the first time the Spaniard has led after any round of a major since he opened with a 66 at the '99 PGA Championship.
 
They don't hand out the claret jug after 18 holes, but Garcia was in line for another award.
 
'Most improved,' he said.
 
He might have to share the honor with Carnoustie.
 
The links course that was roundly criticized for its grueling conditions for its last British Open presented a far more gentle test in the opening round this time, especially with the rain-softened turf and only a slight breeze off the North Sea.
 
'The bite in the golf course is gone,' McGinley said.
 
Tiger Woods, bidding to become the first player in more than 50 years to win the British Open three straight times, added another signature moment to the majors when he holed a 90-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th that sent him to a 69.
 
'I was trying to get it up there close, anywhere where I could have an easy second putt,' Woods said. 'Lo and behold, it falls in.'
 
Carnoustie is no cream puff, but it must have felt that way to those who were here in 1999, when no one broke par in the first round, the cut was 12 over and the winning score 6-over 290. The grass is not nearly as high or as thick, the fairways not nearly as narrow. And the biggest change might have been the wind, which was truly nothing more than a wee breeze.
 
Garcia led two dozen players who broke par, including 18-year-old amateur Rory McIlroy, the only one in the 156-man field who was bogey-free. He was at 68, along with U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, former U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell and Boo Weekley, the country boy from the Florida Panhandle who felt right at home playing links golf for the first time.
 
But the course still showed a nasty side.
 
John Daly was atop the leaderboard at 5 under par until he dropped eight shots over the final seven holes, including a triple bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-5 14th hole.
 
Eight players failed to break 80, including former Players champion Stephen Ames.
 
But even under drab skies and in temperatures so chilly that Woods wore mittens, there were exciting moments from every corner of Carnoustie, and not the carnival variety with Jean Van de Velde standing knee-deep in the Barry Burn.
 
Daly holed out from the 12th fairway for eagle. Lee Westwood knocked one in for eagle from the 15th fairway.
 
Garcia stood out above them all.
 
Eight years ago, he made only one birdie in 36 holes. He made seven in the first round alone Thursday.
 
'Like I told you at the beginning of the week, it's not about revenge for me. I just want to play solid,' Garcia said. 'I just want to play a little bit like I did today, give myself good looks at birdies, not suffer too much out there on the course and put myself in a position where I can do something on Sunday.'
 
Not many suffered Thursday.
 
K.J. Choi, twice a winner on the PGA Tour in the last two months, Padraig Harrington and Stewart Cink were among those at 69, while U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk and two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen were in the large group at 70.
 
Phil Mickelson dropped a shot on the final hole for even-par 71.
 
Garcia, even though he is only 27, is regarded by some as the best player without a major championship. He has had his chances, finishing in the top five seven times since turning pro in 1999. But he rarely starts out this well.
 
His biggest weakness has been putting, and it got so bad that he changed to a belly putter two weeks ago. Even so, it was his ball-striking that carried him at Carnoustie. He made all but one of his birdies from inside 10 feet and reached both par 5s in two.
 
'More than anything, you can't imagine the amount of good putts I hit on the front nine that didn't go in,' he said. 'But all of them looked like they were going in, and that's the beautiful thing about it.'
 
The putter was a beautiful weapon for Woods, at least on one hole.
 
So were some television cables.
 
Woods put his name atop the leaderboard by reaching the 578-yard sixth hole, which played downwind, with a 7-iron and making eagle with a 20-foot putt. His round was starting to get away with bogeys on the 12th and 13th holes and a skulled chip on the par-5 14th that cost him an easy birdie.
 
But he played the three tough closing holes in 1 under, thanks to a putt that he only wanted to get close.
 
His caddie, Steve Williams, was tending the flag as he watched the ball climb a steep ridge and track toward the hole. Williams raised his index finger when the ball was still 5 feet away, and Woods dropped his putter in surprise when it disappeared.
 
'You've got basically four really tough holes coming in,' he said. 'And I played 1 under, so that was a huge bonus.'
 
Also helping was a peculiar ruling by the rules official in his group. Woods pulled his tee shot into thick rough along the ropes left of the 10th fairway, the ball resting on some television cables. Usually, the player is allowed to move the cables and replace the ball if it moves.
 
Not this time. Royal & Ancient official Alan Holmes gave Woods a free drop one club length away, where the grass was trampled and the lie significantly improved.
 
Holmes said the cables were fixed. But former European Tour player Mark Roe, working for the BBC, went over and moved the cables some 3 feet after Woods hit his shot.
 
Woods wound up making par with a nifty chip over the edge of a bunker and an 8-foot putt. Had he played his ball from the thicker grass, he might not have been able to get so close to the green.
 
'I've never seen a ruling like that,' Woods said. 'I thought they should have been able to move those.'
 
It was strange, to be sure, but everything at Carnoustie seemed that way.
 
The two dozen scores under par. The absence of punishing wind. And no tears.
 
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    Murray fixes swing flaw, recovers momentum

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 2:24 am

    SAN ANTONIO - Grayson Murray fixed a flaw in his swing and hit the ball well enough that blustery conditions weren't an issue for him Thursday in the Valero Texas Open.

    Coming off a missed cut at Hilton Head last week, Murray made seven birdies for a 5-under 67 and a one-shot lead. His only mistake was a double bogey from a greenside bunker on the par-3 seventh hole.

    ''Just the fact I did give myself enough opportunities today for birdie, it took a lot of pressure off,'' Murray said.

    Of the five players at 68, only Chesson Hadley played in the morning side of the draw, and he called it among his best rounds of the year because of gusts. The wind died in the afternoon and scoring improved slightly on the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio. Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Billy Horschel and Matt Atkins each posted 68. Horschel and Moore played bogey-free.

    ''Struck the ball really well, something that we've been working hard on,'' Horschel said. ''Could have been better, yeah. I didn't really make anything out there today. But I'm happy with it.''

    Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the course, played the Texas Open for the first time since 2010 and shot a 74. Adam Scott failed to make a birdie in his round of 75. Scott is at No. 59 in the world and needs to stay in the top 60 by May 21 to be exempt for the U.S. Open.

    Harris English was in the group at 69, while two-time Texas Open champion Zach Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker were among those at 70. Johnson saved his round by going 5 under over his final five holes, starting with a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 14th hole. He birdied the last three.


    Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

    Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos


    Murray was coming off a pair of top 15s at Bay Hill and the Houston Open when his game got away from him last week in the RBC Heritage, and he shot 74-70 to miss the cut. He got that sorted out in the five days between teeing it up in San Antonio.

    He said he was coming down too steep, which meant he would flip his hands and hit a sharp draw or pull out of it and hit it short and right.

    ''I was hitting each club 10 yards shorter than I normally do, and you can't play like that because your caddie is trying to give you a number and a club, and you keep hitting these bad shots or keep coming up short,'' Murray said. ''I got back to the basics with the setup and the takeaway, got my club in a better position at the top, which kind of frees my downswing. Then I can start going at it.''

    Even so, Murray thought he wasted his good start - three birdies in his first six holes - when his bunker shot at No. 7 came out with no spin and rolled off the green into a deep swale. He hit his third short to about 7 feet, but missed the putt and took double bogey.

    ''I would have loved to limit that to a bogey because bogeys don't really kill you - doubles are the ones that now you've got to have an eagle or two birdies to come back with, and out here it's kind of tough to make birdies,'' Murray said. ''But I kept my head. My caddie keeps me very positive out there, that's why I think we could finish 4 under the last nine holes.''

    Only 34 players in the 156-man field managed to break par.

    Horschel missed four birdie chances inside 18 feet on the back nine. What pleased him the most was the way he struck the ball, particularly after his tie for fifth last week at the RBC Heritage. Horschel was one shot behind going into the last round and closed with a 72.

    But he's all about momentum, and he can only hope this is the start of one of his runs. Horschel won the FedEx Cup in 2014 when he finished second and won the final two playoff events.

    ''I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward,'' he said. ''I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump in that winner's circle.''

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    LPGA back in L.A.: Inbee Park leads by 1

    By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 1:53 am

    LOS ANGELES - Inbee Park's flirtation with retirement is in the rear-view mirror.

    Backed by a large contingent of South Korean fans, Park shot a 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead Thursday in the opening round of the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open in the LPGA's return to Los Angeles after a 13-year absence.

    Showers ended shortly before Park's threesome, including second-ranked Lexi Thompson, teed off at windy Wilshire Country Club just south of Hollywood.

    Using a new putter, Park birdied four consecutive holes on the back nine before a bogey on the par-4 17th. She quickly recovered and rolled in birdie putts on the second and fifth holes to finish off her round.

    ''I never played a tournament outside Korea having this much Korean supporters out,'' Park said. ''I almost feel like I'm playing back home. It's almost like a little Korea.''

    That applies to the food, too, with nearby Koreatown's restaurants beckoning.

    ''Too many,'' Park said.

    The third-ranked Park banished the blade-style putter she used in her Founders Cup victory last month in Phoenix, a playoff loss in the ANA Inspiration and a tie for third last week in Hawaii. She went back to one that feels more comfortable and has brought her success in the past.

    ''Last week was just an awkward week where I missed a lot of short ones and I just wasn't really comfortable with the putter,'' Park said, ''so I just wanted to have a different look.''

    The 29-year-old Hall of Famer recently said she was 50-50 about retiring before returning to the tour in early March after a six-month break. Momentum has been going her way ever since.

    Marina Alex was second. Thompson was one of seven players at 68 in partly sunny and unseasonable temperatures in the low 60s.


    Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open


    Alex tied Park with a birdie on No. 11. The American dropped a stroke with a bogey on the par-5 13th before rallying with a birdie on No. 14 to share the lead.

    Alex found trouble on the par-4 17th. Her ball crossed over a winding creek, bounced and then rolled into the water, leaving Alex looking for it. Eventually, she salvaged a bogey to drop a shot behind Park. After a bad tee shot on 18, Alex managed a par to close at 67.

    ''I made a lot of the putts that I shouldn't, I wouldn't have expected to make,'' she said. ''I made two great saves on 17 and 18. Kind of got away with some not-so-solid golf shots in the beginning, and I capitalized on some great putts.''

    Thompson returned from a two-week break after finishing tied for 20th at the ANA Inspiration, the year's first major.

    She bogeyed her second hole, the par-4, 401-yard 11th, before settling down and birdieing four of the next eight holes, including the 14th, 15th and 16th.

    ''I changed a little thing that slipped my mind that I was working on earlier in the year,'' said Thompson, declining to share the change in her putting technique. ''I don't want to jinx it.''

    ANA winner Pernilla Lundberg was among those in the logjam after a 68.

    Natalie Gulbis was among five players tied for 10th at 69. Playing sparingly the last two years, Gulbis put together a round that included four birdies and two bogeys.

    Top-ranked Shanshan Feng struggled to a 74 with five bogeys and two birdies.

    The venerable course with views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory wasn't any kinder to eighth-ranked Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie.

    Both had up-and-down rounds that included three bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 10 for Kerr and five bogeys, including three in a row, for Wie. Wie, ranked 14th, had a few putts that lipped out.

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    Horschel (68) builds on momentum at Valero

    By Will GrayApril 20, 2018, 12:32 am

    Billy Horschel only ever needs to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

    While some players require a slow ascent from missed cuts to contending on the weekend, Horschel's switches between the two can often be drastic. Last year he missed three straight cuts before defeating Jason Day in a playoff to win the AT&T Byron Nelson, a turnaround that Horschel said "still shocks me to this day."

    The veteran is at it again, having missed five of six cuts prior to last week's RBC Heritage. But a few tweaks quickly produced results, as Horschel tied for fifth at Harbour Town. He wasted no time in building on that momentum with a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to open the Valero Texas Open that left him one shot behind Grayson Murray.

    "I'm a big momentum player. I've got to get the train moving forward," Horschel told reporters Thursday. "I've always been a guy who gets on a little roll, get that train moving and jump into the winner's circle. So yeah, it would have been great to win last week, but it was just nice to play four really good rounds of golf."

    Many big names tend to skip this week's stop at TPC San Antonio, but Horschel has managed to thrive on the difficult layout in recent years. He finished third in both 2013 and 2015, and tied for fourth in 2016.

    With a return next week to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he notched his first career win in 2013 and a title defense in Dallas on the horizon, Horschel believes he's turning things around at just the right time.

    "Gets the momentum going, carry it into this week, next week, which I've had a lot of success at," Horschel said. "Really the rest of the year, from here on in I have a lot of really good events I've played well in."

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    Three years later, PXG launches new iron

    By Golf Channel DigitalApril 19, 2018, 11:22 pm

    Three years is a long time between launches of club lines, but Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of PXG, says his company had a very good reason for waiting that long to introduce its second-generation irons.

    “Three years ago, when we introduced our first generation 0311 iron, we made a commitment that we would not release a product unless it was significantly better than our existing product,” Parsons said. “:Our GEN2 irons are better than our GEN1 irons in every respect. We believe it’s the best iron ever made, and the second-best iron ever made is our GEN1 iron.”

    PXG’s 0311 GEN2 irons, which officially went on sale today, feature what the company says is the world’s thinnest clubface. They have a forged 8620 soft carbon steel body and PXG’s signature weighting technology. The hollow clubheads are filled with a new polymer material that PXG says not only dampens vibration, but also produces higher ball speeds and thus more distance.

    The irons come in four “collections” – Tour Performance, Players, Xtreme Forgiveness and Super Game Improvement.

    Cost is $400 per iron, or $500 for PXG’s “Extreme Dark” finish. Price includes custom fitting. For more information, visit www.pxg.com.