Young Garcia Getting Back on Track

By Associated PressMay 17, 2004, 4:00 pm
IRVING, Texas -- Still one of the youngest players in golf, Sergio Garcia has a hard time believing the Byron Nelson Championship was the five-year anniversary of his professional debut on the PGA Tour.
 
He was 19 when he showed up in Dallas, without a care in the world or even a driver's license. Garcia captured the hearts of the Texas gallery by attacking every pin, smiling at every pretty girl and saying all the right things. He wound up in a tie for third that year, and the best seemed to be right around the corner.
 
- Two victories on the European tour as a rookie.
 
- A showdown with Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship, including that shot he gouged out of a tree root and chased up the 16th fairway at Medinah.
 
- One of the European stars in the Ryder Cup at Brookline, where he became the most celebrated 19-year-old at The Country Club since Francis Ouimet.
 
Five years later, he is still trying to establish himself as a legitimate star.
 
Garcia took an important step Sunday by winning the Byron Nelson Championship with tremendous shotmaking, average putting and not much effort in the sudden-death playoff.
 
After closing with a 1-over 71 - the first player in 11 years at that tournament to win with a final round over par - Garcia only had to two-putt from 30 feet on the first extra hole as Dudley Hart and Robert Damron fell apart.
 
'A couple of breaks here and there throughout the tournament are huge,' Garcia said. 'I just waited for them to happen, and fortunately enough happened this week.'
 
It was his fourth PGA Tour victory, all of them against strong fields. The 64 world-ranking points moved him to No. 3 in the Ryder Cup standings in Europe, and he is a lock to play on his third team in September at Oakland Hills.
 
Some might have expected more out of Garcia by now, himself included.
 
'Definitely, I would have liked to have been a little better, the way I started,' Garcia said. 'When I turned pro, of course you hope for the best, but you don't know what to expect. I definitely would have been happy the way things are now. But you know, we're never satisfied. We always want more. Sometimes, maybe we get a bit too greedy.'
 
When Garcia turned pro, David Duval was No. 1 and Woods was just starting to dial in on a revamped swing that would take him to unprecedented heights in golf, particularly in the majors.
 
Garcia, who once rose as high as No. 4 in the ranking, couldn't keep up. Before long, the attention shifted to other young players, such as 23-year-old Adam Scott of Australia, who won The Players Championship in March.
 
There have been other growing pains for Garcia.
 
His charm lost some of its shine when he kicked off his shoe in disgust after slipping on a shot, nearly hitting a tournament official in the World Match Play Championship in England. He blamed a playoff loss to Aaron Baddeley in Australia on a rules official out to get him.
 
Even last month, despite playing the final 12 holes at Augusta National in 8 under par to shoot 66 and finish in a tie for fourth at the Masters, he pouted in Butler's Cabin during an interview with Dick Enberg, and later with reporters.
 
'When we're playing well, we're the best,' he said. 'And even if we're playing well and things are not going our way, we can be shocking. So, it's nice to see how fair you guys are.'
 
Garcia later attributed his mood at the Masters to being away from his home in Spain too long.
 
Most of it was simply frustration at not being able to get much out of his game.
 
Garcia changed his swing more than a year ago, which attributed to his drop to No. 95 on the PGA Tour money list last year. He reduced the lag in his swing so that he wouldn't have to rely so much on timing, particularly when the pressure was high on Sunday afternoon.
 
It started to come together about six months ago at the American Express Championship, and he has been waiting for everything to fall in place.
 
All that's holding him back now is his putting.
 
Garcia said his two-shot lead going into the final round should have been larger, and he could have avoided a playoff on the TPC at Las Colinas by making a fraction of the numerous birdie putts he faced inside 15 feet.
 
'It's such a thin line between feeling like you're going to make it and feeling a bit shaky,' he said. 'My confidence with my putting is not as good as it was, but my confidence with the long game, it's miles better. I know what I have to do around the course, and that comes from having confidence in yourself and in your swing.'
 
Garcia is playing Colonial this week, but the real measure will come in the U.S. Open next month at Shinnecock Hills. The 24-year-old Spaniard has performed well in the majors, the only player to finish in the top 10 in all four of them two years ago. He played in the final pairing with Woods two years ago at the U.S. Open, finishing fourth.
 
'I'm just hoping to keep it going,' he said. 'I still have three great tournaments to come, and I'm going to try to keep doing well in those.'
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - EDS Byron Nelson Championship
  • Full Coverage - EDS Byron Nelson Championship
     
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    Woods, Leishman, Fleetwood grouped at Northern Trust

    By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 10:55 pm

    While 125 players qualified for The Northern Trust this week, only 120 have decided to tee it up at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey. Here's a look at a few of the marquee, early-round tee times where players are grouped via FedExCup standing and Tiger Woods makes his first start since a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship (all times ET):

    7:54 a.m. Thursday, 12:55 p.m. Friday: Tiger Woods, Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood

    Woods starts the postseason at No. 20 in the points race, with a great chance to advance to the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time since 2013. He'll look to pad his point total this week in the Garden State, making his return to competition after a week off following a strong showing at Bellerive. He'll play the first two rounds with Leishman, who has two runner-up finishes this season, and Fleetwood, who nearly caught Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open.


    8:05 a.m. Thursday, 1:06 p.m. Friday: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka

    There should be no shortage of eye-popping drives from this trio, who comprise the top three in the season-long points race heading into the playoffs. Johnson holds the No. 1 spot in both the world rankings and the FedExCup, having won three times since January, while Thomas will look to become the first player to go back-to-back in the playoffs and Koepka hopes to add to a career year that already includes two majors.


    8:16 a.m. Thursday, 1:17 p.m. Friday: Webb Simpson, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau

    Simpson got back into the winner's circle in impressive fashion at The Players Championship, and he heads into the playoffs off a T-2 finish last week at the Wyndham Championship. Molinari cruised to victory at the Quicken Loans National before his major triumph at Carnoustie, while DeChambeau's win at the Memorial highlighted his season that brought him to the cusp of a Ryder Cup berth.


    12:44 p.m. Thursday, 7:43 a.m. Friday: Jordan Spieth, Beau Hossler, Byeong-Hun An

    Normally featured among the points leaders at this point in the season, Spieth heads into the playoffs at No. 43 in the standings, sandwiched between a pair of players whose best results came in playoff losses. Hossler has had a quietly strong season that was highlighted by a runner-up to Ian Poulter in overtime at the Houston Open, while An lost a playoff to DeChambeau at the Memorial.


    12:55 p.m. Thursday, 7:54 a.m. Friday: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau

    There will be four green jackets among this group, as the reigning Masters champ is joined by a pair of Ryder Cup hopefuls in Mickelson and Finau. Lefty broke a lengthy victory drought with his WGC-Mexico win in March but has largely slowed this summer, while Finau notched top-10 finishes in each of the first three majors to enter the discussion for possible picks for Paris.

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    Randall's Rant: Too much Tiger for his own good?

    By Randall MellAugust 20, 2018, 10:00 pm

    We could be getting a dose of way too much Tiger Woods.

    Yeah, that’s difficult to fathom, given how good his return to the game has been on so many levels, but the man might be too close to winning for his own good right now.

    I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV, and I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but a reasonable person has to wonder how playing the next three weeks in a row – five of the next six weeks – will affect Woods’ surgically fused spine.

    That isn’t to say Woods is actually going to end up playing that much, but it looms as a real possibility.

    In fact, dating back to the WGC Bridgestone, it’s possible he could be amid a run of playing seven times in the last nine weeks.

    My sacroiliac joint is throbbing at the thought.

    Beginning with The Northern Trust this week, Woods is committed to the first three legs of the FedExCup Playoffs, and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t play the final leg at the Tour Championship if he qualifies.

    It’s impossible to imagine he won’t be among Jim Furyk’s four captain’s picks to play the Ryder Cup.

    So if Woods continues this streak of strong play, what’s going to give?

    We hope it isn’t his back.

    Or his neck.

    Or his knees.

    Only Woods and his doctors really know how much the 42-year-old can take physically, but there is more to lose than to gain by overdoing it now.

    Yeah, the FedExCup Playoffs are great fun, more meaningful with each passing year, but it’s all about the major championships now for Woods.

    Competitively, it’s all that matters.

    Nobody but the most anal Tiger fans are going to remember how many FedExCups he won, but we’re all going to remember how many majors he won.

    We’re all going to remember him resuming his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus, if that’s where his summer tease is taking us, with Woods’ T-6 at The Open last month and his second-place finish at the PGA Championship two weeks ago.

    Whether you are a Woods fan or not, how can you not want to see a historic chase of Jack as Tiger’s last chapter?

    The game soars to yet another level with that.

    A legion of young, new fans come pouring into the game even if Tiger only gets to 17 major championship titles.

    So while the FedExCup Playoffs give us a postseason in golf, make Player of the Year chases more interesting and Ryder Cup captain’s picks more intriguing, they are a mere prelude for Tiger.

    The playoffs give him another chance to get ready for next year’s Masters.

    They give him a chance to win something before heading to Augusta National.

    They give him another chance to rebuild his closing skills.

    Woods doesn’t have to win the overall FedExCup to do that.

    And he doesn’t have to play every event he commits to playing. He’s 20th in FedExCup points right now. He can get to the Tour Championship without playing all three of the legs leading there.

    The tough spot for Woods is withdrawing from a FedExCup event. It’s trickier for him. With all the extra tickets sold when he commits, with all the excitement his anticipated arrival creates, it feels like a broken promise when he backs out.

    Yeah, other players WD before big events for reasons beyond injury, but they don’t create the massive disappointment Woods creates.

    For somebody invested in wanting to see Tiger vs. Jack reprised, it’s a lot easier to live with seeing Woods pull out of a FedExCup Playoff event to rest than to see him WD from one with an injury.

    There’s more excitement in the prospect of seeing a lot of Woods in the majors next year than seeing too much of him now.

    Here’s hoping somebody helps Tiger gets his FedExCup Playoff dosage right. His pain could be golf’s pain.

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    Watch: Marshawn Lynch's golf game could use some work

    By Grill Room TeamAugust 20, 2018, 8:15 pm

    NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch is pretty great at driving golf carts, but from the looks of a video that surfaced this weekend, his golf prowess starts and ends there.

    "Beast Mode" was in attendance at Klay Thompson's charity event in San Francisco on Sunday, and luckily the Golden State Warriors shooting guard caught Lynch's swing on camera - because it is a sight to behold.

    Dressed in a traditional golf hoodie, the former Super Bowl champion who has been thrilling fans with his raw athleticism and power on the gridiron for more than a decade showed off a swing that would make Charles Barkley blush.

    Lynch was not questioned about the swing by members of media afterwards, although there's a pretty good chance you already know how he would've answered.

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    Stenson (elbow) withdraws from playoff opener

    By Will GrayAugust 20, 2018, 5:41 pm

    Former FedExCup champ Henrik Stenson will start his postseason on the sideline, as he withdrew on Monday from The Northern Trust because of an elbow injury.

    Stenson captured the season-long title back in 2013, when he won two of the four playoff events. At 50th in the current points standings, he's assured of a spot next week at the 100-man Dell Technologies Championship and likely to make the field at the 70-man BMW Championship the following week.

    A PGA Tour official confirmed that Stenson cited the elbow injury as the reason for his withdrawal. He was bothered by an injured elbow last month that led him to withdraw from the Scottish Open and limited his prep for The Open, where he tied for 35th.

    The 42-year-old defended his title last week at the Wyndham Championship, tying for 20th place after shooting a 6-under 64 in the final round.

    "It's fine, I can practice and I can play without any problems as of now, but I can't really go after it in the gym fully," Stenson told reporters last week in Greensboro. "The main thing that we can play and practice without having any problems there, so it's getting better."

    The intrigue around Stenson's decision grows when the context of the Ryder Cup is taken into consideration. The Swede has represented Europe in the biennial matches four times, but he's currently 16th in both the European Points and World Points lists with only two weeks remaining in the qualification window.

    Even before skipping this week's event in New Jersey, Stenson appeared likely to need a pick from captain Thomas Bjorn, who will round out his 12-man roster with four selections on Sept. 5. Other notable players who are not currently in position to qualify include Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Thomas Pieters.

    Stenson becomes the fifth player to withdraw from this week's field, which does not feature alternates and is now down to 120 players. Rory McIlroy opted to rest up this week, while Patrick Rodgers is skipping the tournament to attend a wedding. Both Rickie Fowler (oblique) and Bud Cauley (June car accident) withdrew because of injury.