Posted on: March 17, 2011 7:29 pm
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- The signals and signposts are there.
Or at least, some of them are.
Sergio Garcia, adrift in a sea of mediocrity and apathy for much of the past year, seems to be slowly coming out of his shell, and that's nothing but good news for a sport that can never have enough marketable, memorable or marquee players.
Garcia, ranked No. 2 in the world just 26 months ago, has backpedaled to 85th after taking a couple of long breaks to rekindle his inner fire. On Thursday at the first round of the Transitions Championship, his first event on U.S. soil since the PGA Championship last August, he was talking to his ball, using body language and showing outward manifestations that the old Sergio is on the way back.
His 3-under 68, which left him in a tie for 16th when he finished, didn't hurt his emotional mood, either. Garcia, 31 and a veteran of 12 pro seasons already, admitted to feeling some nerves. That's not unusual, per se, but it's a good sign that a semblance of normalcy has resumed.
"I was a little bit nervouse because of getting started, but that's a good thing, because that shows you you are trying," he said. "Every tournament we are nervouse, but obviously when you haven't been here for awhile and you are trying to get back into your own game, you always have a little bit of doubt in your head.
"The good thing about it is, that means is that I care about what I am doing," he said. "And if I didn't care at all, I wouldn't feel it."
Garcia has authored some crazy sentences in his time, but it's hard to argue the logic in that one.
Posted on: March 17, 2011 6:44 pm
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Garrett Willis is experiencing the same symptoms in Tampa that he did a year ago.
Posted on: March 17, 2011 5:42 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 5:43 pm
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- One of the oddest of Bubba Watson's many quirky chararacteristics is that, sometimes, it's hard to tell when he's kidding. He doesn't always make eye contact and sometimes stares at a fixed point in the distance, making it tougher to get a read on him.
Watson, who along with Matt Kuchar and Nick Watney has led the American charge this season, shot a 1-under 70 in the first round of the Transitions Championship on Thursday, then held court afterward about the acute allergy issues that led to his withdrawal last week at Doral.
Watson said he had a sinus infection last week that was so bad, he couldn't play and was forced to take antibiotics. As a way of fighting off the insane pollen levels in Florida at this time of year, he's wearing a pair of large sunglasses between shots. We're talking big, Bono-sized shades, Jackie Kennedy-style stuff, to help keep the crud out of his eyes.
Watson was asked about the new look and never cracked a smile.
"I look good in everything," he said. "Simple."
Posted on: March 17, 2011 4:54 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 6:56 pm
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Just because Martin Kaymer is a European Tour member who has barely gotten a taste of the American circuit doesn't mean he doesn't know what he likes.
This is the world No. 1's first trip to the Transitions Championship and he couldn't stop gushing about the Innisbrook Resort's testy Copperhead Course, site of the event.
Plenty of others have suggested over the years that it might be the best track in use among the Florida Swing events. Kaymer went a step farther.
"It's a fantastic golf course, I think one of the best I've played in America, to be honest," the German star said after an opening 68 that had him on the cusp of the top 10 after the morning wave of play. "It's very difficult. You have to hit a lot of good tee shots."
The rest of the shot values don't stink, either.
The course is narrow, tree-lined and features smallish greens. At least it's not another bash-and-slash course off the tee. Kaymer is still learning the layout, frankly, after a 3-under 68.
This week marks his third atop the world rankings, tying countryman Bernhard Langer for most weeks atop the global ladder by a German player. The only other top-10 player in the field this week is No. 7 Paul Casey, so the odds are strong that Kaymer still will be No. 1 next week as well.
"Of course I'm thinking about it," Kaymer said of his princely perch. "It's a lot of motivation if you know that you are the best player in the world. So of course I really enjoy that."
Posted on: March 17, 2011 4:16 pm
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- John Senden got it rolling late on Thursday.
Unfortunately, for him, he had it rolling early, too.
The Australian veteran, who has had a pair of runner-up finishes at the Transitions Championship, called a penalty on himself in the first round when his ball moved as he stood over it with a 3-wood in hand on the fifth hole.
After driving into the rough and finding his ball on a slight upslope, Senden addressed the ball and started his backswing. The ball rolled slightly backward as he took back the club, but he was unable to stop his swing and hammered the shot toward the green.
One hole later, he found PGA Tour rules official Steve Rintoul.
"I was walking up the fairway and actually hit my third shot on the green and I said to my caddie, 'You know what, I'm not sure whether you saw it on the second shot,'" Senden said. "But I felt like I needed to talk about it, because it was bugging me, you know what I mean, and you have to do the right thing with this game of golf.
"It's about honesty."
His five on the hole was converted into a six, and an admittedly irritated Senden also bogeyed No. 6 as well. Then good karma began paying him back -- he played the final 12 holes in 5 under for a 4-under 67.
Rintoul told him he had to add a penalty stroke. Interestingly, had Senden stopped his swing and not moved his ball back to its original position before whacking it, he would have been subjected to a two-shot assessment.
Because he completed his swing without stopping, though, he wasn't subject to the second penalty stroke, Rintoul explained. Yeah, the rules are pretty esoteric. Last week at Doral, Graeme McDowell had to add a penalty stroke when the wind moved his ball on the green after he had addressed it with his putter.
"It seems like we have a lot of similar cases recently," Rintoul said.
Posted on: March 17, 2011 3:57 pm
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Paul Casey understands that, from the outside, it's a head-scratcher that he's intentionally skipping the one tournament he's won on the PGA Tour as part of his run-up to the Masters.
Think how much his fans will be pulling their hair out of he doesn't play well at Augusta National.
Casey, the second-highest-ranked player in the field this week at the Transitions Championship at world No. 7, is taking a two-week break before heading to Augusta. It's all part of a plan to improve his performance at the first major of the year, where he has had solid, though hardly spectacular, results.
He won in Houston in 2009, his first win in the States, then missed the cut the following week at the Masters. It's been something of a trend and it happened again earlier this year on the European Tour's desert swing -- a win followed by an MC. When he and swing coach Peter Kostis mapped out his schedule this year, they decided to take the week off before the Masters as a change of pace.
"So, yeah, it's not something that's going to be permanent. It's just, we wanted to try it this year and see how it went."
He hasn't exactly been taking it easy otherwise. This is the seventh time in nine weeks that he's played, spanning two tours.
Casey knows he's going to hear about it if he doesn't sparkle at the Masters, where he has all the tools to contend.
"If I don't play well at Augusta, then I'll be calling up Steve Timms saying, "'I'm really sorry,'" he laughed.
Posted on: March 17, 2011 1:09 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2011 3:46 pm
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- It was the best line of the day.
Posted on: March 17, 2011 10:42 am
Edited on: March 17, 2011 1:01 pm
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- They're off and running at the Transitions Championship.
Well, running might not be the best term.
After taking into consideration the traffic-flow issues at each tour venue, the rules staff posts in the locker room a list of weekly time projections, or target times for play completion, if you will. Last week at Doral, despite a 66-man field, five-hour rounds were the norm.
On Saturday, though the first group off the tee in the morning played 18 holes in a hustling 2:06, it took the final group of Hunter Mahan and world No. 1 Martin Kaymer required almost exactly 2 1/2 hours to play the front nine, play was so bogged down. That was as a twosome, mind you.
This week at Innisbrook Resort, when threesomes are in use over the first two days, the time par has been set at 4:26. Don’t know about you, but I'm betting on the "over" on this one. One tour veteran eyeballed the posted time chart on Thursday morning, noted the time and laughed.
"Wishful thinking," he said.
According to PGA Tour regulations, a player who receives his 10th bad time of the season is fined $20,000. The first nine bad times for being out of position go unpunished. Whether that enforcement system is enough to get anybody's attention or to modify behavior, well, you decide.
The Transitions tournament publicist sent forth this missive today: "Afternoon tee times will be pushed back 60 minutes and PGA TOUR officials are hopeful, but not certain, that first round play will be completed on Thursday."