Euros look to end winless drought Sunday at Sawgrass

By Will GrayMay 11, 2014, 1:00 am

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Twenty-five events have come and gone during the 2013-14 season on the PGA Tour.

Many of the names in the winner’s circle have ranged from “surprising” to “I could not successfully pick him out of a lineup,” but they have all shared one common bond: they’re not from Europe.

While Australia has attempted to take over Tim Finchem’s circuit this year, one victory at a time, the contingent from across the Pond is still 0-fer. There have certainly been some close calls – notably, Rory McIlroy’s successful surrender at PGA National and Matt Kuchar’s bunker hole-out to beat Luke Donald last month at Harbour Town.

But during a Ryder Cup year, when the biggest and best from Europe are expected to shine as the season progresses, their collective trophy haul remains as bare as the section of Ian Poulter’s mantle set aside for majors.

That could all change Sunday at The Players Championship.

While TPC Sawgrass has already dispatched several top Americans, freeing up Phil Mickelson’s weekend plans and humbling former major champs in Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, the European armada has shown up in a big way through three rounds.

There are a total of four European flags flying in the top 10 heading into the final round, a tally that would have been five if not for Justin Rose’s two-shot penalty for microscopically moving his ball behind the 18th green. The group is led by Martin Kaymer, a former world No. 1 who is in search of his first win on U.S. soil since the 2010 PGA Championship.

Kaymer equaled the course record with a 63 during the opening round, and after an even-par 72 on Saturday, shares the lead with Jordan Spieth. The German explained that sometimes the deck can be stacked against Europeans trying to win on American soil.

Full-field scores from The Players Championship

The Players Championship: Articles, videos and photos

“When you’re trying to win a big tournament, usually the big tournaments, you play them in America, so I’m always a foreigner,” Kaymer said. “It’s a good challenge.”

While Kaymer will tee off Sunday in the best position among the Euros, the sentimental choice is likely Sergio Garcia. While only three Europeans have won this event – and none since Stenson in 2009 – Garcia is among that select group after his playoff win in 2008.

The Spaniard’s relationship with the Stadium Course remains a tumultuous one following last year’s near-miss, but it’s a venue where, by and large, he has had success. After missing the cut at the Masters in his previous start, Garcia is happy to be back on a course that has largely been kind to him – and his play this week reflects it.

“They say that there’s courses for horses,” he said. “I see too many shots at Augusta. Here, I see less shots. I see, in my head, I have everything a bit more clear of what I want to do.”

Garcia has won just once in the U.S. since his triumph at TPC Sawgrass, having also won the 2012 Wyndham Championship.  After a third-round 69 that left him three shots behind Kaymer and co-leader Jordan Spieth, he noted some surprise that a European has yet to win in the States this season.

“It’s such a thin line between winning and finishing second or third,” Garcia said. “I’ve been close a couple times, Justin (Rose) has been close, Luke (Donald) has been very close…It’s not like we haven’t had chances.”

Still on the outer edge of contention sit a pair of Ryder Cup veterans in Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari, five shots back among a tie for eighth. Westwood has had close calls at TPC Sawgrass before, and has cracked the top 10 in two of his last three appearances in Ponte Vedra.

Molinari has had more limited success in this event, following a ninth-place finish in his debut in 2010 with three straight missed cuts. He fired a 5-under 67 in the third round, though, a score that equaled the low round of the day and gave the 31-year-old reason for optimism.

“I think there’s still, if you play well, there are a few chances out there,” Molinari said. “I’m happy with where I am at the moment.”

Recent success against the U.S. has been a point of pride for Europeans, who currently possess the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup and U.S. Open trophies. The continent as a whole could go winless for the balance of the season and still head to Gleneagles as favorites when the Ryder Cup is again up for grabs in September.

With many top Americans either on the couch or well down in the standings, the fact remains: Sunday presents a high-profile opportunity to stake the European flag atop one of the biggest events the U.S. has to offer.

Getty Images

Romo turns in even in PGA Tour debut

By Will GrayMarch 22, 2018, 3:00 pm

After stumbling out of the gates, Tony Romo has found his footing in his PGA Tour debut.

Playing in the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship on a sponsor exemption, Romo shot an even-par 36 for his opening nine holes in the Dominican Republic. The former NFL quarterback bogeyed his first two holes, but steadied the ship with three birdies from Nos. 4-8 while playing alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.

The early highlight of the round came at the par-4 fifth hole, where Romo drained a putt from across the green for his second straight birdie:

Romo has played as an amateur partner in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and has played individually in U.S. Open local qualifiers and mini-tour events as an amateur. But this marks his first attempt to gauge his game against the best players in the world who are not in Austin for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Romo, who plays to a plus-0.3 handicap, said earlier in the week that he expected some jitters once it came time to put a tee in the ground.

"You'll be nervous on Thursday on the first tee. Just going to be," Romo said. "I've got to get through the first three or four holes. If I can handle the nerves on the first three or four holes, I think that I'll settle in and hopefully just play the way I've been playing."

Click here to watch live first-round action on Golf Channel.

Getty Images

Kim's missing clubs show up at sporting goods store

By Will GrayMarch 22, 2018, 1:58 pm

More than a month after they were lost on an American Airlines flight, the clubs I.K. Kim used to win last year's Ricoh Women's British Open turned up on the sale rack of a California sporting goods store.

Kim's clubs became lost in late January when she flew from Miami to San Diego, with the airline suggesting she simply rent a new set. A few weeks later, Kim shot a "What's in the bag" television segment which according to a Golfweek report caught the eye of three good samaritans in the San Diego area.

The three men recognized Kim's clubs for sale at a local Play It Again Sports, with the major winner's tools listed at $60 each. The store even had Kim's tour bag, complete with her LPGA player badge. Kim filmed the reunion with her bag - containing wedges and a few hybrids, minus the head covers - at the Carlsbad police station:

Kim was back in southern California this week for the Kia Classic, where she'll begin play Thursday morning at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad.

Getty Images

New dad Garcia removes shoes, wins match

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:48 am

AUSTIN, Texas – In one of the day’s most explosive matches, Sergio Garcia rolled in an 8-footer for birdie at the 18th hole to defeat Shubhankar Sharma, 1 up, at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

The duo halved just nine holes on Day 1 at Austin Country Club, with Garcia going from 2 up through four holes to 1 down with five holes to play.

But the Spaniard rallied with five birdies over his final eight holes and pushed his record to 20-17-1 in the Match Play. He also gave himself his best chance to advance out of pool play since the format began in 2015.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

The victory continued what has already been a memorable week for Garcia, whose wife, Angela, gave birth to the couple’s first child last Wednesday.

“I already feel like I’m a winner after what happened on Wednesday,” Garcia said. “Obviously, it's something that we're so, so happy and proud of and enjoying it as much as possible.”

The highlight of Garcia’s round on Wednesday came at the 12th hole when he took a drop on a cart path. After considering his options, he removed his shoes and hit his approach from 212 yards to 29 feet for a two-putt birdie to halve the hole.

“I have spikes. So if I don't take my shoes off, I'm going to slip. It's not the kind of shot that you want to slip,” Garcia said. “I had tried it a couple of times on practice swings and I was already slipping a little bit. So I thought I would just take my shoes off, try to get a little bit in front of the hole and it came out great.”