Unlike in '08, Garcia succeeding despite putter

By Randall MellMay 10, 2015, 12:23 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – After Sergio Garcia won The Players Championship in 2008, he lifted his putter, as if it were a scepter for everyone to see, and kissed the blade.

Given his tumultuous relationship with the unruly instrument, the image was jarring.

This gifted ball striker showed what magic is possible when he makes an ally on the greens.

Garcia is back in contention at The Players, but the bewildering angle this time is that he’s making his run with a putter that is practically a sworn enemy again. He’s knocking on the door of his ninth PGA Tour title in spite of his wicked, cursed - even broken - flat stick.

After posting a 5-under-par 67 Saturday, Garcia did everything but scratch his head when he looked up to see that he is just two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I am a little surprised I am where I am, the way I feel, because I feel like I’ve left a lot of shots out there,” Garcia said.

Garcia isn’t being overly dramatic. He didn’t snap his putter over his knee after Friday’s round and stuff it in a garbage can for effect. A look at the tournament stats will make his fellow players want to scratch their heads, too.

Garcia is in contention despite ranking dead last in the field in putting from inside 10 feet.

He has missed five putts of 4 feet or less.

He was so flummoxed on Friday that he began alternating between a conventional grip and claw grip over the final four holes.

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“I don’t know what to do,” he said after the round.

Garcia started this week with a conventional grip but was back to the claw throughout Saturday’s round.

The fact that Garcia is in contention is a testament to how stellar his ball striking remains. He hit every fairway but one Saturday. He’s first in the field this week in strokes gained-tee to green and tied for fourth in greens in regulation.

Yes, of course, Garcia is making putts. He holed a nice 12-footer to save par at the last hole on Saturday, but he was still kicking himself for missing so many good chances. He missed putts from 9 feet, 8 feet, 7 feet and 3 feet in Saturday’s round alone.

Garcia’s mood was inscrutable after. It was difficult to tell if he was excited about being in contention to win another Players Championship or disappointed that he wasn’t running away with the title.

“I am excited,” Garcia was asked. “It's always exciting to be up there, but at the same time, obviously, you look back at these first three days, and I feel like I easily left, on average, three shots out there every round. You cannot think what could have been. It is what it is. It's as simple as that. I’ve just got to deal with it and try to do the best with what I have and that's what I'm trying to do.”

Sometimes Garcia seems to sabotage himself. We’ve all heard him be afraid to trust prosperity, or doubt fortune is ready to favor him, or just beat himself up.

“Sergio is hard on himself,” Rory McIlroy said. “I think you guys have probably experienced that over the past 15 or 20 years covering him. There’s a reason he gets so down on himself. Because he is so talented, and he knows what he can achieve. He knows how  good he can be.

“We’re all like that at times. I get frustrated with myself, but I feel like I can just sort of let it go maybe a little easier. Maybe that Latin blood in there sort of gets him a little fired up.”

Garcia started the week with a TaylorMade prototype blade putter made specially for him. He abandoned it for the second round but went back to it Saturday after breaking the putter he brought off the bench, in addition to changing his grip.

“Even when it doesn't feel good, it still feels better than the other one, when it doesn't feel good,” Garcia said.

With the putting frustration so apparent, Garcia was asked how confident he is going into Sunday.

“I'm very confident with my game, with my long game,” he said. “Even my chipping has been quite good for most of the year. Unfortunately, my putting has just been up and down. Some great rounds, and then some rounds where, I don't know, I can't even see the hole.

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

We’ll see if Garcia kisses the blade of another putter in victory, or snaps yet another as he sends it on the way to another garbage can.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at golfodds.com.

Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

Zach Johnson: 13/2

Rory McIlroy: 7/1

Jordan Spieth: 8/1

Rickie Fowler: 9/1

Kevin Kisner: 12/1

Xander Schauffele: 16/1

Tony Finau: 16/1

Matt Kuchar: 18/1

Pat Perez: 25/1

Brooks Koepka: 25/1

Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

Alex Noren: 50/1

Tiger Woods: 50/1

Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

Danny Willett: 60/1

Francesco Molinari: 60/1