Sergio Ready to Emerge from Shadows

By Mercer BaggsMarch 16, 2005, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. -- This year started with the Big Three. Then it expanded to the Big Four. And because everyone not named Retief Goosen said Retief Goosen should be included, there became the Big Five.
 
Just on the fringe of the Big However Many stands Sergio Garcia.
 
Sergio Garcia
Putting may be the one thing keeping Sergio Garcia from being among golf's elite.
Garcia is ranked eighth in the world. Hes about two full points behind Goosen, who stands in fifth place ' and two full majors. And thats about the proper distance between golfs current crop of really good players and the truly elite.
 
Garcia is good, really good. Hes coming off a season in which he won twice on the PGA Tour, once on the European Tour and went 4-0-1 for a victorious European squad in the Ryder Cup.
 
Thats an amazing performance, and one he would love to duplicate annually (or biennially, as would be the case). But its not good enough to force the evolution of a Big Six.
 
The media, of course, tends to focus the lions share of its attention on the top of the top. Woods, Singh, Els, Mickelson, and to a lesser extent Goosen, grab the majority of the headlines.
 
Does it bother Garcia that he can accomplish so much and still be overlooked at times?
 
To tell you the truth, I really dont care that much. I know what I can do. Thats something that you guys (the media) like to point out, he said.
 
I really feel like Ive just got to get better, keep improving and let my clubs do the talking. You know, when I do that, then you guys will realize if Im in that category that you were talking about or not.
 
You can tell, however, there is something there. Something below the surface that occasionally rises up to shake the tree for a few leaves of respect.
 
It was just a year ago that Garcia shot 66 in the final round of the Masters and then chided a handful of reporters, saying When we're playing well, we're the best ... So it's nice to see how fair you guys are, and I just hope that you guys don't come out now saying, oh, you know, he's back, and this is the Sergio we know and all that.
 
Garcia later apologized for the outburst. Hes always been more emotional than most. And sometimes we tend to forget that hes only 25 years old and still maturing.
 
You know, I think thats probably one of my strengths, Garcia said a couple of weeks ago about his outward emotions. But, you know, you can also ' if you dont control it the right way, it can also be a weakness. So youve got to make sure that you go always on the right path.
 
It only seems that Garcia is well beyond his actual age. He rose to international prominence when he gave Woods a run at the 1999 PGA Championship ' when he was just 19.
 
He finished second that year at Medinah. And it wasn't long thereafter that he was grouped into the dreaded Best Player Never to Have Won a Major category.
 
I find it a bit funny, because, you know, Im (25) and they are putting me on that list already. Its like, if you just got on tour, and some people just got on tour who are 24, 25 years old and you cant just put them on that list.
 
But its also a good thing, because they consider you a good golfer, a good player.
 
Garcia has notched seven top-10 major finishes since nearly scissor-kicking his way to the 99 PGA title, but he hasnt come as close to winning one as he did that Sunday nearly six years ago.
 
You have to keep giving yourself chances, and as I said other years, theres some guys that are a bit more fortunate than that ' they get one chance and they get through. And theres some other guys that it takes them a bit longer, he said.
 
But, you know, I think that Im giving myself good opportunities of winning majors ' and thats all I can do at the moment, and hopefully things will go my way in one of them.
 
Garcia made an effort to better his game ' and his chances of winning a major ' by reworking his swing throughout the 2003 season. It was a trying period; and one where he suffered through his worst results as a professional.
 
It brought about plenty of criticism from others at the time, but now seems to have brought about plenty of positives for Garcia. Last year showed him ' and everyone else ' that everything he had been working on was actually going to work for him.
 
He ranked sixth on tour in scoring average and fourth in greens hit in regulation. He was 33rd in driving distance, but 170th in driving accuracy.
 
Garcia, who has bulked up a bit this year, carrying about 170 lbs on his 510 frame, isnt overly concerned about his waywardness off the tee. The Ford Championship was further proof that its better to be long than accurate in this day and age on the PGA Tour.
 
At the moment, Garcia is focused on improving his putting, where he ranked 129th on tour in 04.
 
The long game ' I think it was great, the best I had in my career, no doubt about it, Garcia said of his 2004 performance. Unfortunately, I didnt putt very well last year and it showed.
 
If I would have been putting a little bit better, I probably would have had four easy, good chances of winning more tournaments last year.
 
Garcia hasnt sniffed a victory yet this year. He got a top-10 at the limited-field Mercedes Championships and made it to the quarterfinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. But he has yet to crack the top 40 in two full-field, stroke-play events.
 
And he can point right to his putting for the reason why. For the most part, his numbers thus far this season are right on pace with last years ' he even leads the tour in Grenns Hit ' but hes 182nd on tour in putting average.
 
Im still a bit rusty, he said in his last event at the Ford Championship, where he ultimately tied for 64th. Definitely not feeling my best. But, you know, working on it and trying to get better and see if we can get some confidence.
 
If he can find a little confidence with the flat stick, it might swallow up his entire game. And wouldnt that add to an already dynamic season?
 
There's no doubt at the moment there's a lot of guys playing well. Of course probably two or three years ago, you know, Tiger was the one that was standing out. There was some other guys playing pretty well, but I think right now at the moment, there's a bigger group playing quite well, you know, playing good golf.
 
If I keep working on the same things Ive been working, Ill have a good chance of doing some good things.
 
Related Links:
  • Sergio Garcia's Bio
  • Full Coverage - Bay Hill Invitational
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    Goal for new world No. 1 Koepka: Stay healthy

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 1:38 pm

    Last season Brooks Koepka bagged a pair of majors en route to the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award. He started the new wraparound season with an emphatic win at the CJ Cup to reach world No. 1 for the first time.

    But amid the best form of his career, Koepka has a simple goal in mind as he gets ready to turn his attention to the new year.

    "Stay healthy," Koepka told reporters. "That's been the big thing. I need to be healthy to be able to play all these events, play all the majors."

    Koepka's breakthrough year comes despite the fact that he missed four months in the spring, including the Masters, while recovering from a wrist injury. He hit the ground running once he returned, with strong finishes at TPC Sawgrass and Colonial preceding wins at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.

    Now Koepka has added a third trophy after cruising to a four-shot win in South Korea on Sunday that allowed him to move past Dustin Johnson at world No. 1.

    "I'm 1-for-1 this year, which is nice," Koepka joked about his undefeated record in the new wraparound season.

    Koepka will be in the field next week in China for the WGC-HSBC Champions before putting the clubs on the shelf. With Justin Thomas paving the way by making the goal-setting process more public in recent years, Koepka explained that even after summiting the world rankings he plans to wait until 2019 to adjust his expectations for himself.

    "I keep the same goals through the calendar year," Koepka said. "On Jan. 1 I go to the beach in the morning and go write down my goals and figure them out for the calendar year, but I just need to finish this year off. I've got next week and I would like to, coming out the first week as No. 1, I'd like to play well."

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    Birdie binge for Woodland comes up short at CJ Cup

    By Will GrayOctober 21, 2018, 12:52 pm

    Gary Woodland mounted an impressive rally at the CJ Cup, but in the end even 11 birdies weren't enough to catch Brooks Koepka.

    Woodland started the final round in South Korea five shots behind the new world No. 1, but he made the biggest move of the day amid chilly conditions on Jeju Island. With six birdies over his first nine holes, including four in a row on Nos. 6-9, he briefly caught Koepka at the top of the leaderboard.

    But Woodland bogeyed No. 10, and even with five more birdies coming home to finish a 9-under 63 he still finished alone in second, four shots behind Koepka who closed with a bogey-free 29 to put the trophy out of reach.

    "Yesterday I didn't get any putts to go in, and today I saw a lot of putts go in," Woodland told reporters. "Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him. So you knew you had to make a lot of birdies, and I made a lot today. But I was just too far behind."

    It's the second straight strong performance from Woodland to start the new wraparound season, as he tied for fifth at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia after holding a share of the 54-hole lead. A closing 63 would have gone a long way last week, but he was still pleased to be able to make Koepka sweat a little on a day when even the bad holes resulted from good shots.

    "I made two bogeys on the back and I said, 'Be right' on both shots," Woodland said. "I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited. I hit them both perfect. All in all, I would have liked for a couple more putts to go in yesterday and been a little closer going into today."

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    Kang (69) wins Buick LPGA Shanghai by two

    By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:11 am

    SHANGHAI - Danielle Kang shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday to win the LPGA Shanghai by two strokes for her second career title.

    Kang, who started the final round one stroke off the lead, offset a lone bogey on the par-5 fourth hole with four birdies after the turn to finish at 13-under 275 and hold off a late charge by Lydia Ko, who had the day's lowest score of 66.

    ''I hope I win more,'' Kang said. ''I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.''

    Ko, who had seven birdies and a lone bogey, tied for second at 11 under with a group of seven players that included Brittany Altomare (71), Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and overnight co-leader Sei Young Kim (72).


    Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


    Carlota Ciganda, who also held a share of the lead after the third round, shot a 73 to fall into a tie for ninth with Bronte Law and local favorite Lu Liu.

    Paula Creamer carded three birdies against a pair of bogeys for a 71 to finish in sole possession of 12th place.

    The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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    New world No. 1 Koepka already wants more

    By Nick MentaOctober 21, 2018, 8:48 am

    If there is a knock on Brooks Koepka, it’s that he’s a little too cool.

    Gary Woodland, who threw 11 birdies at Koepka on Sunday and still finished four shots back, inadvertently captured that exact sentiment after Saturday's third round.

    “You know," he said, "Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much."

    In context, Woodland meant that there was little anyone in the field could do to rattle the 54-hole leader. (He proved himself right, by the way.)

    And out of context, the comment speaks to the general narrative surrounding Koepka. That he’s just detached enough for fans to have trouble attaching themselves to him. That he’s just a jock here to cash checks and collect trophies, to kick ass and chew bubblegum.

    But for a few moments Sunday in South Korea, it became clear that Brooks Koepka does care. Crouched on the 72nd green with some time to stop and think as Ian Poulter lagged a bit behind, Koepka finally let a moment get to him. Cameras caught the three-time major champion appearing unusually emotional.

    Of course, less than a minute later, those same cameras caught him yawning. The contrast was almost too perfect. It was as if he knew he had just been found out and needed to snap back into character – which he did.

    He promptly poured in an eagle putt to cap off a final-round 64, to win the CJ Cup by four, and to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.


    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    “To be world No. 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green, moments after closing out his fifth PGA Tour victory and third this year. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”

    What is beginning to sink in is that Koepka now unequivocally belongs in the conversation, the one golf fans and analysts have been having over and over since Tiger Woods fell from golf's greatest heights.

    Who’s the best at their best?

    In the two years between his first PGA Tour win and his first U.S. Open victory, Koepka was touted as having the kind of talent to compete with the game's elites. It took him a little while for him to get here, but Koepka has taken over as the latest player to look like he’ll never lose again. Just as it was for Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas before him, this is Koepka's moment. This is his run of dominance.

    It’s a run that will have to end at some point. Every one of the guys just mentioned did cool off eventually. Koepka will, too. Maybe it will be fatigue, maybe it will be injury, and maybe it’ll just be golf. This talent pool is simply too deep for anyone to remain on top for too long.

    But what Koepka has done this year – in defending his U.S. Open title, in staring down Tiger at the PGA, in claiming the Player of the Year Award, in ascending to the top of the world rankings – is put his name at the forefront of the conversation. If he was unappreciated at times before, those days are behind him. He's already accomplished too much, proven himself too good, to be overlooked any longer.

    And he’s far from done.

    “For me, I just need to keep winning,” the new world No. 1 said Sunday. “I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”