Woods, Garcia in war of words

By Ryan LavnerMay 12, 2013, 1:56 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The start was ominous, with Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods exchanging first-tee pleasantries and little else Saturday at TPC Sawgrass.

No matter.

They saved their most compelling comments for after the third round of The Players.

In what was billed as the reprising of their longstanding feud, Tiger vs. Sergio, Round No. 20, did not disappoint. After all, this was an opportunity for Woods to reassert his dominance. This was a chance for Garcia to exact some revenge against his longtime nemesis.

And then they played the par-5 second hole. Follow along.

After their drives, Garcia was on the right side of the fairway, while Woods found the pine needles on the left.

What happened next depends on whom you ask.

This much is certain: Garcia blocked his fairway-wood shot way right, into the trees, and a two-shot swing ensued. Garcia made bogey, Woods birdied, and Tiger briefly seized the outright lead.

Garcia claims that fans had cheered as he started his downswing. The reason? Woods had pulled a 5-wood from his bag, and the fans roared because he was attempting to reach the par 5 in two shots.

Clearly agitated, Garcia muttered to himself for a few holes. He seemed to collect himself after the bogey, however, making four consecutive pars. But on No. 7, he had a brief exchange with a heckler as he prepared to play his second shot. 

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“Nothing personal,” the 20-something fan told Garcia, “but I hope you miss it.”

Garcia jawed back: “You don’t want to go home early, do you?”

Garcia hit his approach to 30 feet, his final shot before the horn sounded to suspend play because of inclement weather in the area.

Though he hadn’t created much excitement on the course – no birdies on the first six holes before the horn sounded – Garcia opted for pyrotechnics on TV.

In an NBC interview, Garcia blamed Woods for distracting him during the second shot on No. 2.

“I wouldn’t say that he didn’t see that I was ready,” Garcia said, “but you do have a feel when the other guy is going to hit. … I think that I try to respect everyone as much as possible out there. I try to be careful what I do to make sure it doesn’t bother the other players.”

Well, what Garcia said on national television certainly bothered Woods, who was made aware of the remarks during the nearly two-hour delay.

Upon the restart, Woods played his second shot into No. 7 as Garcia waited by the green. Then, the Spaniard didn’t wait for his fellow playing competitor, deciding to attempt his birdie putt while Woods was still walking up toward the green.

They didn’t interact for the next two hours, until play was finally suspended for the day because of darkness.

With both players struggling with their games for much of the day, it appears they saved their best shots for the post-round interviews.

First came Tiger.

Conducting an interview underneath the clubhouse veranda, Woods was asked about what happened on No. 2.

“Well, the marshal told me (Sergio) already hit so I pulled a club and was ready to play my shot,” he explained. “Then I heard his comments afterward, and it’s not real surprising that he’s complaining about something.”

Did he ever speak with Garcia directly about the incident?

“We didn’t do a lot of talking,” Woods replied, unsmiling.

He spoke for nearly four minutes, then was whisked away by a PGA Tour official.

Less than a minute later, Garcia appeared on the side of the patio. The TV camera lights flipped on.

“It’s very simple,” he started. “You have to pay attention to what’s going on because the other guy is hitting and you do something when you’re in the crowd, and the crowd is going to respond. It’s going to affect the other player. Unfortunately, he didn’t help me very much.

“Obviously, I did hit some bad shots after that, and I’m blaming myself for those. But that was a little bit unfortunate and sometimes you need to be a bit more careful.”

Garcia was then told of Woods’ comments, specifically his remark that it “wasn’t real surprising” the 33-year-old was “complaining about something.”

“That’s fine,” Garcia said. “At least I’m true to myself. I know what I’m doing, and he can do whatever he wants.”

Saturday was merely the latest episode in an ongoing saga between the two high-profile players.

After all, no one has stunted Garcia’s career quite like Woods, dating to their first encounters in 1999.

But it didn’t take long for their relationship to deteriorate.

After finishing second to Woods at the 1999 PGA, the then-20-year-old Garcia celebrated like he won a major – more on that in a bit – when he defeated a flu-ridden Woods in the “Battle at Bighorn,” a made-for-TV exhibition in 2000.

At the 2002 U.S. Open, Garcia complained that play should have been suspended during the second round because of heavy rains. He grumbled to reporters that if Woods had been on the course, play would have been called. Paired in the final round that year at Bethpage Black, Woods shot 72 to Garcia’s 74 and won his second U.S. Open trophy. Garcia, of course, is still majorless.

In the final round of the 2006 British Open, Garcia dressed head-to-toe in canary yellow and was crushed by Woods, 67-73. Afterward, Woods reportedly texted a friend: “I just bludgeoned Tweety Bird.”

In all, they’ve now played in the same group 20 times on the PGA Tour.

Prior to Saturday, Woods had shot the lower score 12 times (and tied four times). Only three times has Garcia carded a better score than his longtime rival, but not since 2006 and never on the weekend.

Through 14 1/2 holes Saturday, Garcia was 1 over par on his round, while Woods was even.

Despite all the bickering, despite all the years’ worth of frustration, Garcia still finds himself firmly in this tournament. With 3 1/2 holes to go in his third round, he is in a tie for second (with Woods and Henrik Stenson), two shots behind surprise leader David Lingmerth.

The bell rings – sorry, the third round resumes – at 7:10 a.m. ET Sunday.

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Garcia bounced in Austin: 'On to Augusta'

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 6:55 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – For the 16th time in his career, Sergio Garcia’s week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play ended earlier then he would have hoped, but this time he has plenty of distractions to ease the sting.

Garcia lost his Saturday morning match to Kyle Stanley, 3 and 1, marking the 15th time in his Match Play career he’s failed to advance to Sunday, but at least he has plenty to keep him busy with a newborn at home and his return to the Masters looming in two weeks.

“On to Augusta,” said Garcia, who is not playing next week’s Houston Open. “It's exciting. Obviously when we get there, it's going to be interesting to see how we feel and everything. But it is definitely exciting.”

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Garcia defeated Justin Rose in a playoff to win last year’s Masters, his first major triumph, so his return to Augusta National will be unlike anything he’s ever experienced.

His duties as defending champion will include hosting Tuesday’s Champions Dinner. No word on Garcia’s menu for the event, but various sources have confirmed it will be something “Spanish.”

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Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Sweet 16

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

Here is how things played out in the Round of 16 on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The week began with 64 players taking on Austin Country Club,but the field is dwindling. Click here for Day 3 match results:

Match 97: Bubba Watson (35) def. Brian Harman (18), 2 and 1. Watson was 1 down going to the eighth hole, but he won four of the next five holes to turn around this battle of lefties. A 12-foot putt for eagle at the 12th dropped, giving him a 3 up lead coming home. It was Watson’s second eagle of the day. He looks as if he’s still riding the confidence from that Genesis Open victory last month. Watson will advance to play Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the quarterfinals.

Match 98: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Charles Howell III (59), 1 up. Aphibarnrat won in a late comeback, winning the final two holes. He holed a 9-foot putt for birdie at the 17th to square the match and won with an 8-foot birdie at the last. He had not led all day, not until that last birdie putt dropped. The 28-year-old Thai improved to 4-0 on this world stage after sweeping his group in the round-robin play. A four-time European Tour winner, Aphibarnrat is looking for his first PGA Tour victory. He will meet Bubba Watson in the quarterfinals.

Match 99: Kyle Stanley (45) def. Sergio Garcia (7), 3 and 1. Stanley birdied the eighth, ninth and 10th holes to go 3 up, and then he held off Garcia’s run at him, eliminating the world No. 10 with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes. With the victory, Stanley has a chance at a nice Texas two-step, a chance to eliminate the two highest ranked players left in the field, the only players left among the top 10 in the world ranking. But, there’s hard work to do in the quarterfinals, where Stanley will meet world No. 2 Justin Thomas.

Match 100: Justin Thomas (2) def. Si Woo Kim (50), 6 and 5. Thomas remains on fire in this format, steamrolling Kim a day after completing a round-robin sweep of his group by blowing away Francesco Molinari, 7 and 5. The Kim match felt like it was over shortly after it started, with Thomas making the turn 5 up. Thomas will advance to play Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals.

Match 101: Cameron Smith (46) def. Tyrell Hatton (12), 2 and 1. Smith found himself behind early, falling 2 down after Hatton opened with back-to-back birdies, but Smith quickly rallied to win one of the best matches of the day. He birdied four of the next five holes to go 1 up. Hatton lost despite making seven birdies on the round. He lost despite making birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to the red-hot Smith, who made eight birdies. Smith will meet Alex Noren in the quarterfinals.

Match 102: Alex Noren (13) def. Patrick Reed (19), 5 and 3. In this Fire vs. Ice match, Ice won, with Noren making easy work of Reed. Really, though, Reed never got a flame going, and Noren wasn’t going to help him the way Jordan Spieth did a day before. Reed was 2-over on his card before finally making his first and only birdie of the day at the 13th. Somewhere, European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn must have been smiling, watching Noren easily take down the formidable American match-play dynamo. Noren will meet Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.

Match 103: Ian Poulter (58) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 2 and 1. Poulter’s match-play mojo is going strong again, with the Englishman summoning the intensity that has made him so formidable in the Ryder Cup over the years. He was on fire Saturday, making eight birdies over the first 15 holes, if you count the concession he received hitting a wedge to 18 inches at the 13th hole. Poulter put a special putter in the bag this week, using the same flat stick that helped him lead the Euros to their historic comeback victory against the Americans at Medinah in 2012. Though Oosthuizen made four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, he still couldn’t make it close. Poulter will meet Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals.

Match 104: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Matt Kuchar (16), 1 up. Kuchar applied all kinds of pressure on Kisner on the back nine, but he couldn’t get Kisner to fold in the best match of the day. Kuchar was 2 down with four to go but managed to pull all square going to the last. After missing a 15-footer for birdie at the 18th, Kuchar watched Kisner sink a 12-footer for his birdie to win. Kisner will meet Ian Poulter in the quarterfinals.

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JT advances to quarters, closing in on No. 1 ranking

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 5:40 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Justin Thomas continued his impressive run at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and finds himself another step closer to overtaking Dustin Johnson in the World Golf Ranking.

Thomas rolled past Si Woo Kim, 6 and 5, in the first knockout stage and will face Kyle Stanley in the Elite Eight. He must advance to Sunday’s championship match to overtake Johnson as the new world No. 1.

“It wasn't anything crazy or special. Just played solid golf tee to green. And it was forcing him to make a lot of putts,” said Thomas, who has played 61 holes this week, won 24, lost six and hasn’t trailed in four matches.

Stanley, who needed a playoff victory over Paul Casey on Friday to advance to the weekend, defeated Sergio Garcia, 3 and 1.

Bubba Watson also continued his solid play, rallying from an early deficit to beat Brian Harman, 2 and 1. He will play Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who defeated Charles Howell III, closing with back-to-back birdies for a 1-up victory.

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But as impressive as Thomas has been, Sweden’s Alex Noren has quietly continued to impress, going undefeated in pool play and closing out Patrick Reed on the 15th hole for a 5-and-3 victory.

“He's such a tough competitor,” said Noren, who will face Australian Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals. “I managed to hole a few birdie putts. When we both had good chances, he just missed and I managed to make those.”

Former Match Play champion Ian Poulter also advanced with a 2-and-1 victory over Louis Oosthuizen. He will play Kevin Kisner, who converted a 10-foot putt at the 18th hole to defeat Matt Kuchar, 1 up.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”