Resurgence for Sergio?

By John HawkinsJune 29, 2011, 5:21 pm

My first personal experience with Sergio Garcia was at the 1999 Byron Nelson Championship – Sergio’s U.S. debut and second event as a professional. Perhaps 150 kids, many of them teenage girls, gathered on the path from the 18th green to the clubhouse that Sunday afternoon, emitting a commotion seldom seen or heard at a boring old golf tournament.

Garcia seemed to understand what all the fuss was about and instinctively reveled in the attention, signing and posing for the better part of an hour before heading downstairs to the locker room. In our two or three minutes together, he must have called me “sir” five times. At the age of 19, Sergio demonstrated a wealth of magnetism unlike any young player I’d covered, and with Tiger Woods grinding away at swing changes in the spring of ’99, the premise of two charismatic superstars leaping into a longstanding rivalry could not have gifted pro golf with a brighter horizon as the century came to a close.

Barely three months later, Sergio would chase down Woods on the back nine at the PGA Championship, hitting that unforgettable recovery shot from behind a tree, then scampering up the fairway to watch it tumble onto the green. It’s certainly no coincidence that Tiger began his best-ever stretch of golf (2000) shortly after Garcia became so noticeable in his rear-view mirror, after David Duval had unseated him atop the world ranking and Vijay Singh won the 2000 Masters.

I would get to know Garcia fairly well over the next several years – the longest stretch of quality time occurred at the now-defunct Southern Open. Sergio’s love of fast cars made for a sexy theme to a feature I was writing at the time, so we rented a Ferrari and brought it to Callaway Gardens. For reasons still unknown, I agreed to sit in the passenger seat while Garcia whipped around the back roads of Georgia at speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour. Not even an ornery Steve Williams has scared me more.

My catalog of Sergio memories seems relevant again now that Garcia seems to have revived his dormant career. He has put himself in contention after 36 holes three times in 2011, which doesn’t mean much, but he did play well at the U.S. Open, then lost in a playoff last week on the European Tour, which gets him back into the British Open. It was at Carnoustie in 2007 when things really began turning in the wrong direction, when the dashing young Spaniard with the matinee-idol smile suffered the most excruciating of his tough losses.

Yes, he would notch the biggest (and last) of his seven PGA Tour victories at The Players Championship the following May, but Sergio Garcia was born to be a national champion, and that hasn’t happened. The irrepressible grin has long since vanished beneath a pile of disappointment.

Garcia led by three after 54 holes at Carnoustie, which caused him to try a smart-conservative route to the claret jug. Alas, he was dusted by Padraig Harrington, who actually double-bogeyed the 72nd hole to let Sergio into a playoff.

Harrington won in overtime, then watched Sergio self-destruct down the stretch at the ’08 PGA. His competitive soul corrupted, his boyish exuberance flattened by the toll of a recent past, Garcia’s downfall will, until further notice, remain one of the great mysteries of golf’s modern era. Twelve years ago, he was Rory McIlroy and then some – a 10-time major champion in the making who never missed a fairway, chipped in twice a round and holed 15-footers with his eyes closed.

Maybe there’s some gas left in the tank.

Maybe the Guy Upstairs and his golf buddies just wanted to make a point.

Maybe Sergio Garcia can turn into Sergio Garcia again. How cool would that be?

The game needs him, and not just a little bit. Not even Woods can plead guilty to a series of cheesy beer commercials starring a fashionable young stud who flicks a pea-sized wad of paper into the navel of a bikini-clad hottie or be an authentic ladies man who arrives at the black-tie affair with all the subtlety of James Bond – and reduces the corny punch line to delicious new lows. Tiger busted out windows at the school-book depository with his 7-iron. Sergio used his 7-iron to over-club his way to the best seat at the swimming pool.

Garcia and Adam Scott are the pretty boys gone sour, but there are no expiration dates in this refrigerator. Perhaps Scott never had the stomach or the short game for superstardom. The Artist Formerly Known as El Nino, however, had it all – at least until he started missing those 4-footers. Finding pro golfers who move the needle can be tougher than plucking a thumbtack from a haystack. If nothing else, Garcia spent years causing ripples on golf’s mainstream Richter Scale.

He is probably more recognizable than he is popular, but a great big comeback would turn up both dials. A few minutes after the conclusion of the playoff at Carnoustie – eight long years after the initial meeting in Dallas – I went to see a different Sergio in a different locker room. The cramped quarters left nowhere to hide. Caddie Glenn Murray’s eyes were filled with tears, as were those of Sergio’s father, Victor. His son would walk in a few minutes later and ask me to leave, which I did, and not five seconds after I walked out the door, I heard Sergio wail loudly and painfully, like a guy stuck with the sharp end of a dagger.

In his first competitive round in the United States, Garcia shot a 62. It remains his best score ever in this country. Twelve years ago, nothing was impossible. With the aid of a little wishful thinking, nothing still is.

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."

Marc Dull (Florida State Golf Association)

Golden: Dull rude, caddie 'inebriated' at Florida Mid-Am

By Ryan LavnerMay 25, 2018, 1:03 am

Jeff Golden has offered more detail on what transpired at the Florida Mid-Amateur Championship, writing in a long statement on Twitter that Marc Dull’s caddie was “inebriated” before he allegedly sucker-punched Golden in the face.

In a story first reported by, Charlotte County Police responded to a call May 13 after Golden claimed that he’d been assaulted by his opponent’s caddie in the parking lot of Coral Creek Club, where he was competing in the Mid-Am finals. Golden told police that the caddie, Brandon Hibbs, struck him because of a rules dispute earlier in the round. Hibbs denied any involvement, and police found no evidence of an attack.

Golden posted a 910-word statement on the alleged incident on his Twitter account on Thursday night. He said that he wanted to provide more detail because “others have posed some valid questions about the series of events that led to me withdrawing” from what was an all-square match with two holes to play.

Golden wrote that both Dull and Hibbs were rude and disruptive during the match, and that “alcohol appeared to be influencing [Hibbs’] behavior.”

Dull, who caddies at Streamsong Resort in Florida, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“I’ve never seen an opposing caddie engage in so much conversation with a competitor,” Golden wrote. “On the eighth hole I had become extremely frustrated when my opponent and caddie were talking and moving. I expressed my disappointment with their etiquette to the rules official in our group.”

On the ninth hole, Golden informed the official that he believed Hibbs had broken the rules by offering advice on his putt. Golden won the hole by concession to move 2 up at the turn, and Hibbs removed himself from the match and returned to the clubhouse.

Golden wrote that after the penalty, the match “turned even nastier, with more negative comments from my opponent on the 10th tee.” He added that he conceded Dull’s 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10 because he was “sick of the abuse from my opponent, and I wanted the match to resemble what you would expect of a FSGA final.”

Though there were no witnesses to the alleged attack and police found little evidence, save for “some redness on the inside of {Golden’s] lip,” Golden wrote that the inside of his mouth was bleeding, his face was “throbbing” and his hand was also injured from bracing his fall. X-rays and CT scans over the past week all came back negative, he said.

Golden reiterated that he was disappointed with the FSGA’s decision to accept his concession in the final match. He had recommended that they suspend the event and resume it “at a later time.”

“The FSGA has one job, and that’s to follow the Rules of Golf,” Golden wrote. “Unfortunately, there’s no rule for an inebriated ‘ex-caddie’ punching a player in a match-play rain delay with no witnesses.”

Asked last week about his organization’s alcohol policy during events, FSGA executive director Jim Demick said that excessive consumption is “highly discouraged, but it falls more broadly under the rules of etiquette and player behavior.”

Dull, 32, was back in the news Wednesday, after he and partner Chip Brooke reached the finals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They lost to high schoolers Cole Hammer and Garrett Barber, 4 and 3.

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D. Kang, M. Jutanugarn in four-way tie at Volvik

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:50 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Amy Olson crossed paths with her coach, Ron Stockton, on her walk to the 18th tee at the Volvik Championship.

''Make it another even $20,'' Stockton said.

The coach was already prepared to give his client $35 for making seven birdies - $5 each - and wanted to take her mind off the bogey she just had at 17.

Olson closed the first round with a 6-under 66, putting her into the lead she ended up sharing later Thursday with Moriya Jutanugarn , Caroline Masson and Danielle Kang.

Do small, cash incentives really help a professional golfer?

''Absolutely,'' said Olson, who graduated from North Dakota State with an accounting degree. ''He'll tell you I'm a little bit of a hustler there.''

Olson will have to keep making birdies - and petty cash - to hold her position at Travis Pointe Country Club.

Jessica Korda, Minjee Lee, Nasa Hataoka, Lindy Duncan, Morgan Pressel, Megan Khang and Jodi Ewart Shadoff were a stroke back at 67 and six others were to shots back.

Ariya Jutanugarn, the Kingsmill Championship winner last week in Virginia, opened with a 69.

The Jutanugarn sisters are Korda are among six players with a chance to become the LPGA Tour's first two-time winner this year.

Moriya Jutanugarn won for the first time in six years on the circuit last month in Los Angeles.

''What I feel is more relaxed now,'' she said. ''And, of course I like looking forward for my next one.''

Olson, meanwhile, is hoping to extend the LPGA Tour's streak of having a new winner in each of its 12 tournaments this year.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

She knows how to win. It just has been a while since it has happened.

Olson set an NCAA record with 20 wins, breaking the mark set by LPGA Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, but has struggled to have much success since turning pro in 2013.

She has not finished best finish was a tie for seventh and that was four years ago. She was in contention to win the ANA Inspiration two months ago, but an even-par 72 dropped her into a tie for ninth place.

If the North Dakota player wins the Volvik Championship, she will earn a spot in the U.S. Open at Shoal Creek in Alabama. If Olson finishes second or lower in the 144-player field, she will enjoy an off week with her husband, Grant, who coaches linebackers at Indiana State.

''I'll make the best of it either way,'' she said.

Olson was at her best in the opening round on the front nine, closing it with four birdies in a six-hole stretch. Her ball rolled just enough to slowly drop in the cup for birdie on the par-3, 184-yard 13th. She had three birdies in five-hole stretch on the back, nearly making her second hole-in-one of the year at the par-3, 180-yard 16th. A short putt gave her a two-stroke lead, but it was cut to one after pulling and misreading a 6-foot putt to bogey the 17th.

Even if she doesn't hold on to win the tournament, Olson is on pace to have her best year on the LPGA Tour. She is No. 39 on the money list after finishing 97th, 119th, 81st and 80th in her first four years.

''Two years ago, I started working with Ron Stockton and whenever you make a change, it doesn't show up right away,'' Olson said. ''That first year was tough, but we've turned a corner and I've just found a lot of consistency in the last year. And, it's a lot of fun to go out there and play golf a little more stress free.''

Stockton helped her stay relaxed, walking along the ropes during her morning round.

''Maybe some people feel a little more pressure when their coach is there,'' she said. ''I'm like, 'Great. If he sees the mistake, he knows what can go wrong and we can go fix it.' So, I like having his eyes on me.''

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Club pro part of 6-way tie atop Sr. PGA

By Associated PressMay 25, 2018, 12:04 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Nevada club professional Stuart Smith shot a 5-under 66 on Thursday for a share of the first-round lead in the Senior PGA Championship.

Smith closed his morning round with a double bogey on the par-4 18th, and Scott McCarron, Tim Petrovic, Wes Short Jr., Barry Lane and Peter Lonard matched the 66 in the afternoon.

One of 41 club pros in the field at Harbor Shores for the senior major, Smith is the director of golf at Somersett Country Club in Reno.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron won the Senior Players Championship last year for his first senior major.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer is skipping the event to attend son Jason's high school graduation, and Steve Stricker is playing the PGA Tour event in Texas.