Story 7 The Rise of Sergio

By December 17, 2008, 5:00 pm

Isn't it somewhat ironic that Sergio Garcia now sits squarely between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the world rankings?


Back in 1999, Sergio was locked in a duel with Tiger at Medinah with the PGA Championship hanging in the balance. Tiger, of course, won the battle that day, but in the process 'El Niño' was officially anointed as the next 'can't miss golf superstar.' The next Tiger, if you will.


He was just a baby-faced 19-year-old who would no doubt follow in the glorious footsteps of fellow Spaniards Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal. He was fast tracked to superstardom – major championships simply a matter of when and not if.


Fast-forward nine years to 2008 and Sergio is still without a major championship to his name – a name that, much like Tiger, doesn't require a surname to be recognized. Over that time, however, there have been quite a few close calls as well as some strange twists of fate: 54-hole leads vanishing into thin air, frightening canary-colored outfits, rugs pulled out from under him, and, of course this year, best friend (wink, wink) Padraig Harrington ripping another major from his grasp.


This, paradoxically, is much like the career path of Mickelson, the man he just passed in the world rankings. 'Lefty', now the owner of three majors, was for a long time famously – or infamously – known as the ‘best player to never win a major.’ He had all the talent in the world, but was seemingly at odds with the golfing gods. Sergio, too, looks as if he has inherited Mickelson’s all-you-can-ride rollercoaster pass, enough to cause a mere mortal to disappear from the planet. His 2008 season being a perfect example:


  • A huge win at The Players, and although not technically a major, it's called the ‘fifth major.’ Said Sergio following the win: “It feels like a major, and it tests you like a major. I’m so thrilled to be here standing with the trophy.”

  • A heartbreaking loss at the PGA Championship, where Harrington put on one of the greatest displays of clutch putting in major championship history. Afterwards, Sergio didn’t endear himself to many fans, seemingly blaming those fateful golf gods for his defeat: “They get in contention in a major and manage to get things going their way…and unfortunately, it hasn’t happened to me.”

  • Closes out his PGA Tour season in superb fashion, finishing in the top 5 in three of the four FedEx Cup Playoff events, including a pair of second-place finishes. In the process, he wraps up the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average on Tour, an honor won by Tiger in eight of the previous nine years.

  • Gets waxed by Anthony Kim in the opening Sunday singles match at Valhalla, which set the tone for the day and gives the U.S. squad a long overdue victory.

  • Saddled with the ongoing saga of idol Ballesteros battling a brain tumor, he won an event hosted by he and his father, the Castello Masters, on the course he grew up playing. “I couldn’t help but think about Seve. I’m sending all my love to him and his family and hope he recovers soon. I hope this victory helps him to get a little better,” he said.

  • Wins the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, the first event in the inaugural ‘Race to Dubai.’ In the process, supplants Mickelson as the No. 2 player in the world. 'Being No. 2 is awesome,” Sergio said. “I have never achieved it before. It is something extra for the year.'


    And now with his rise to the No. 2 ranking in the world, Sergio is unanimously the best player to never win a major. And it is not lost on the Spaniard: “I have been trying for a while (to get to No. 2), but winning a major is the next goal.”


    In a sport often criticized for the lack of personalities, Sergio, burns bright – although many times that brightness is not cast in the most forgiving light. No person, aside from Tiger, produced more drama than Sergio in 2008.


    And in the era of Tiger Woods, being No. 2 is like being No. 1. Kinda like The Players being the ‘fifth major.’


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    Paisley (61) leads Tour Championship

    By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

    ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Tour Championship.

    The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

    ''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

    The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

    Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

    ''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

    Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

    ''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

    Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

    The series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

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    McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

    By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

    ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

    Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

    Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

    Projected FedExCup standings

    Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

    Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

    McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

    “I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

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    Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

    By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

    ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

    After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

    He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

    Projected FedExCup standings

    Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

    Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

    Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

    “If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”

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    Fowler 'pain free' and tied for Tour Championship lead

    By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:01 pm

    ATLANTA – The most important member of Team USA at next week’s Ryder Cup may be the team trainer.

    Justin Thomas began the season finale nursing a case of tendonitis in his right wrist and Rickie Fowler skipped the first two playoff events after being slowed by a right oblique injury.

    Neither player seemed impacted by the injuries on Thursday at the Tour Championship, with Thomas tied for fifth at 3 under and Fowler tied for the lead with Tiger Woods at 5 under par.

    Current FedExCup standings

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    “I needed the 2 1/2 weeks or so of just sitting around really not doing a whole lot,” said Fowler, who tied for eighth last week at the BMW Championship. “It was definitely the right call. If I would have played through the first or second playoff events, there was really no benefit, especially looking at the ultimate goal being ready for the Ryder Cup and to have a chance to be here at East Lake.”

    Being rested and pain-free is a vast improvement over how he felt at the PGA Championship last month, when he underwent therapy before and after each round and had to wear tape just to play.

    “It's nice to be back swinging pain-free because I wouldn't have wanted to deal with how it felt during PGA week for a continued amount of time,” said Fowler, who finished his day with a bogey-free closing nine to secure a spot in Friday’s final group with Woods.