Golf: Sergio Garcia tortured by number crunchers

Sergio Garcia (above) joined Charley Hoffman, Rickie Fowler and Thomas Pieters in a four-way tie at the halfway stage of the Masters. The Spaniard has never won a Major, but has finished in the top 10 on 22 occasions.
Sergio Garcia (above) joined Charley Hoffman, Rickie Fowler and Thomas Pieters in a four-way tie at the halfway stage of the Masters. The Spaniard has never won a Major, but has finished in the top 10 on 22 occasions.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Spaniard points out scoring blunder as gusty conditions claim defending champ Willett

AUGUSTA (Georgia) • For nearly 20 years, Augusta National Golf Club has been Sergio Garcia's personal torture chamber.

As has been his wont, the Spaniard has persistently lamented his fate on the grounds, as if he were cursed.

But on Friday at the Masters, it finally seemed as if he had a point.

Tied for the tournament lead midway through his second round, he stumbled to a dispiriting bogey on the 10th hole. Then, in what turned out to be a scoring error, his score for the hole was instead listed as a seven - a triple bogey.

It was posted on the massive white scoreboards all around Augusta National, a mistake Garcia himself spotted.

He might have also noticed that the error meant his name had all but dropped off the leaderboard entirely.

The blunder was rectified several holes later, and surprisingly, Garcia did not accede to any feelings of doom - he attributed the issue to one of his playing partners, Shane Lowry, wearing similar clothing.

In fact, he rallied to regain a share of the second-round lead. His spectacular, three-under 69 dropped him to 140 for the tournament, tying him at the halfway point with first-round leader Charley Hoffman (75), Rickie Fowler (67) and Thomas Pieters (68).

Which raised the question: Has Garcia, the sport's dark prince and a golfer still without a place in the Major championship kingdom, finally found the resolve and mental resilience to survive on golf's biggest stages?

After a wind-whipped opening two rounds, the weekend may provide the answer.

For his part, the 37-year-old knows he must change. He must not take golf's eternally unjust, mind-numbing fickleness personally. He simply has to vow to take the good with the bad and let the cruellest bounces roll off his back, or something like that.

These things can take time. But on Friday, he said all the right things. "I know that funny things are going to happen out there and you have to accept it and stay as positive as possible," said Garcia, who had six birdies and three bogeys.

The Spaniard was not the only one on Friday showing a certain mettle in the face of adversity.

After 11 holes, Hoffman seemed to be going to pieces. The putting magic he displayed a day earlier while shooting a 65 had abandoned him, and he was four over par.

But the American steadied himself to play one under in his final seven holes.

"Not a bad score," said Hoffman, who had five bogeys and two birdies. "I like my position right now because I still have a chance at the weekend."

Others will not have the same opportunity to make a run at the championship in the final two rounds. Among those who missed the cut were defending Masters champion Danny Willett, two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson and Patrick Reed.

On the leaderboard, there were several Major championship winners lurking just behind the leading group, with Justin Rose (72) and 57-year-old Fred Couples (70) at 143.

One stroke behind them were Adam Scott (69), Jordan Spieth (69) and Phil Mickelson (73).

Fowler, who shot a 32 on the front nine and appeared ready to make a charge that would separate him from the field, made a serious misstep with a bogey on the 15th hole.

But his tee shot on the par-three 16th nestled near the hole and resulted in a critical birdie.

Afterwards, he expressed the dominant sentiment of the day for those, like Garcia, still seeking their first Major title.

"The wind is supposed to finally die down and we'll have great weather on the weekend," Fowler said.

"It should be fun. I'm looking forward to a lot of good golf."

NY TIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 09, 2017, with the headline 'Garcia tortured by number crunchers'. Print Edition | Subscribe