Garcia at peace with major-less credentials

By Will GrayMarch 31, 2015, 10:31 pm

HUMBLE, Texas – What’s the proper shelf life on a nickname?

It’s an irrelevant question for many of the best names in golf: The King, Tiger, Shark, Golden Bear and Black Knight. All of those endure the test of time.

But some are more ephemeral, their fit wearing out like an overused t-shirt as the years pass.

Take, for example, Sergio Garcia. When he burst onto the scene at age 19, the Spaniard was playfully dubbed El Niño, a nickname that has followed him throughout his career. But the player teeing it up this week at the Shell Houston Open has very little Niño about him.

Garcia turned 35 in January, and he is in the midst of his 16th season on the PGA Tour. His baby-faced smile has been replaced by the grizzled shadow of a veteran, one who has already compiled a wildly successful career: eight wins in the U.S., 11 more in Europe and more than $37 million in PGA Tour earnings.

And yet ...

Despite ranking ninth on the all-time money list, Garcia continues to be dogged by the only thing missing from his otherwise stellar resume: a major championship. That fact won’t change this week in Houston, and based simply on the probabilities history won't be on Garcia's side next week at the Masters.

In fact, as he now sits closer to the Champions Tour than his famed frolic across the 16th fairway at Medinah, there’s reason to think that a major may never come his way.

But don’t expect Garcia to lose much sleep over what his credentials lack.

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“If it comes down to me not winning any majors when I’m done with my golfing career, I’m not going to be sad,” Garcia said Tuesday. “It’s not the main thing. Obviously it’s something nice to have, and if I get it I’m not going to give it back, but that is not – it’s not the main thing in my life.”

His answer has roots in a sense of contentment that comes from playing some of your best golf while you plan a future with the love of your life. It also shows tinges of rationalization, the inevitable byproduct of numerous close calls without tasting triumph.

But Garcia has never been one to shy away from an opinion, whether assessing the role the golf gods played in his playoff loss at the 2007 Open Championship or evaluating his newfound happiness both on and off the course alongside fiancée Katharina Boehm.

Too often players offer canned responses to tough questions, or no responses at all. Garcia, to his credit, fielded various queries with candor, displaying the poise of a veteran who has found a fundamental sense of peace.

“I think as you get older, as you get more and more experience, you realize the important things in life,” he said. “I’m not saying that winning a major is not important, but it’s not the most important thing in the world. I think there’s a lot of other things that you can do that can not only fulfill you as a player, but also as a person.”

Make no mistake, the major odds no longer are in Garcia’s favor. While Bubba Watson won the Masters last year at age 35, less than a quarter of the total majors since 1960 have been won by players 36 or older. Garcia is now beyond the age at which Phil Mickelson ended his major drought at the 2004 Masters.

In order to claim a major, Garcia would need to overcome the old guard that has stood in his way since the turn of the century, but more importantly he would have to defeat the new wave of the game’s brightest stars, led by Rory McIlroy who kept him at bay last summer at Royal Liverpool.

Garcia is one of the longest-tenured members of the major championship bread line, but the mouths around him – those of Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Jason Day and others – are perhaps even hungrier.

It didn’t help matters that in his lone brush with contention this year, Garcia reverted back to his old ways. Leading by one with two holes to go at the Northern Trust Open, he finished bogey-bogey to miss a playoff by a shot.

Given weeks to reflect, Garcia has turned that close call into another positive, one upon which he hopes to build this week in Houston at an event he nearly won a year ago.

As for the rest of the year, and the four major chances that loom? It’s all a matter of perspective.

“As you go through life, and through moments not only on the golf course but outside and stuff,” he said, “you kind of realize the things that are really, really important in your life and the things that are important, but you can kind of go through without them.”

Garcia’s major may come next week. It may come next year, or it may not come at all.

Whatever the outcome, expect him to flash a smile. He is, after all, El Niño.

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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

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

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Perez (T-3) looks to remedy 'terrible' major record

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 7:34 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez’s major record is infinitely forgettable. In 24 Grand Slam starts he has exactly one top-10 finish, more than a decade ago at the PGA Championship.

“Terrible,” Perez said when asked to sum up his major career. “I won sixth [place]. Didn't even break top 5.”

It’s strange, however, that his status atop The Open leaderboard through two rounds doesn’t seem out of character. The 42-year-old admits he doesn’t hit it long enough to contend at most major stops and also concedes he doesn’t exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game’s biggest events, but something about The Open works for him.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I didn't like it the first time I came over. When I went to St. Andrews in '05, I didn't like it because it was cold and terrible and this and that,” he said. “Over the years, I've really learned to like to come over here. Plus the fans are so awesome here. They know a good shot. They don't laugh at you if you hit a bad shot.”

Perez gave the fans plenty to cheer on Friday at Carnoustie, playing 17 flawless holes to move into a share of the lead before a closing bogey dropped him into a tie for third place after a second-round 68.

For Perez, links golf is the great equalizer that mitigates the advantages some of the younger, more powerful players have and it brings out the best in him.

“It's hard enough that I don't feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That's the best,” he said. “Greens, you can kind of miss a shot, and it won't run off and go off the green 40 yards. You're still kind of on the green. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed.”