Sergio Garcia vows not to let Masters nightmare ruin his season

Phil Casey 18/04/2018
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Sergio Garcia was defending champion at the Masters but had a shocking tournament.

Sergio Garcia has vowed that his Masters nightmare will not ruin the rest of the season as he returns to action in the Valero Texas Open.

Garcia’s title defence at Augusta National effectively came to an embarrassing early end when he took an amazing 13 shots to play the 15th hole in the opening round.

The 38-year-old dumped five balls into the water on the par five, where he made a crucial eagle in the final round in 2017, to record the highest score on the hole in tournament history.

After his second shot – with a six iron from 206 yards – found the water in front of the green, Garcia took a penalty drop and left himself around 90 yards to the green, but repeatedly hit wedge shots onto the putting surface and watched them spin back into the hazard.

Garcia went on to shoot rounds of 81 and 78 to finish in a tie for 82nd in the 87-man field, but insists the incident was quickly put out of his mind.

“Probably as soon as we finished on Friday afternoon it was pretty much forgotten and the week was over,” Garcia told a pre-tournament press conference in San Antonio.

“I think at the end of the day you’ve got to realise that sometimes it happens, sometimes it goes the wrong way, and without doing much wrong it can happen. But you learn from it and you move forward and try to be better.

“If my ball with a six iron bounces up and goes to, I don’t know, five feet or something like that, even if I don’t make eagle we’re probably having a different conversation. I’m probably shooting even par or even one over that first round.

“With a decent round on Friday, I have a chance of contending. Unfortunately, what happened happened and you can start trying to make excuses that I had a lot of things to do coming into the week or during the week, yes, but we’re used to those things. I’m not going to put that as an excuse of why the week went the way it went.”

Asked if what happened on the 15th represented the lowest point in his career, Garcia added: “No, no, not really.

“Maybe if that would have happened on Sunday last year after hitting my shot, if it hits the pin dead on and goes in the water, it probably would have been harder.

“Knowing that you can go there [as a former champion] every year, it kind of helps. If I play it 30 more times we’ll have some years where things go our way and some years where it doesn’t.

“You’ve just got to deal with it and keep moving forward. Obviously the Masters, it’s massive, it’s very important, but it’s one week and you can’t let one week ruin your whole year.”

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DP World Tour Championship Pro-Am place up for grabs in 'Junior Luckiest Ball on Earth' initiative

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The eagerly awaited Luckiest Ball on Earth series kicks off later this month and, for the first time, junior golfers across the UAE will be vying for a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to play alongside some of the biggest names in golf in the star-studded DP World Tour Championship Pro-Am.

The initiative is another indication of DP World’s determination to grow the game at grassroots level as part of their title sponsorship of the European Tour’s season-ending tournament.

The Junior Luckiest Ball on Earth, which has been introduced as a new initiative aimed at helping to grow the junior game in the UAE, will this year be based on Emirates Golf Federation Order of Merit events with 20 girls and 20 boys winning a place in the Grand Final set to take place on the Fire course at Jumeirah Golf Estates on October 28.

The juniors that qualify will consist of the top 10 boys and 10 girls from the season ending Gross Order of Merit and the top 10 from the Net Order of Merit which will be declared after the Al Ain Junior Open on April 28.

One winner – girl or boy – will then win a place in the ‘Luckiest Ball on Earth’ team, alongside the adult man and lady winner, where they will rub shoulders with the likes of defending DP World Tour Championship winner Jon Rahm, former World No.1 Rory McIlroy and Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood in the DP World Tour Championship Pro-Am on the Earth course on Tuesday, November 13.

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The event is the annual curtain raiser for the European Tour’s season-ending grand finale which takes place at Jumeirah Golf Estates from Thursday, November 15, to Sunday, November 18.

“The Luckiest Ball on Earth grows bigger and better every year and we are thrilled to be giving junior golfers in the UAE an opportunity to play with some of their heroes,” said Nick Tarratt, Dubai-based Director of European Tour International.

“We wish all the competitors the very best of luck as they aim to secure a spot in the DP World Tour Championship Pro-Am and send our thanks and appreciation to the clubs and the EGF for continuing to support this amazing initiative.”

The DP World Tour Championship sees the top 60 players on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai competing for a prize fund of US$8 million.

The Luckiest Ball on Earth competition has proven a sure hit with the UAE’s amateur golfers since the initiative was first launched in 2011.

The annual competition has traditionally been open to all golfers aged 18 or over who hold an Official Club Handicap recognised by the EGF (maximum 28 for men and 36 for ladies).

The Al Ain Junior Open takes place on April 28 at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club with entries closing on April 25. Secure your place for this amazing opportunity now.

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Five straight birdies propel Jordan Spieth to first-round lead at Masters

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Jordan Spieth took control at the Masters with a stunning first round.

Reigning British Open champion Jordan Spieth will draw upon memories of his epic 2015 Masters victory and his nightmare 2016 back-nine Sunday collapse in trying to win another green jacket.

The 24-year-old American birdied five consecutive holes starting on the par-5 13th in firing a six-under par 66 and seizing a two-stroke lead after Thursday’s opening round of the Masters.

Fourth-ranked Spieth says his best and worst memories at Augusta National will inspire him over the final 54 holes.

“I’ll always have demons out here, but I’ll always have a tremendous amount of confidence,” Spieth said.

“Once you win here, you have an advantage over anybody who hasn’t. And there can be positives and negatives to both the demons and the confidence.

“So it’s just about playing the golf course for what you get, recognizing what the tendencies are this course brings and what my own tendencies are when under the gun.”

Spieth did match the Masters tournament record of 18-under 270 set by Tiger Woods in 1997 to win three years ago.

But two years ago he squandered a five-shot lead on the final nine holes – a quadruple-bogey at the par-3 12th helping England’s Danny Willett win the green jacket, Spieth having to put in on him.

Spieth added the Claret Jug last year for his third major crown, a haul that also includes the 2015 US Open, and said he felt the Sunday tension on Thursday but responded with a run of five straight birdies on the back nine before a closing bogey.

“Today I felt the Sunday-type pressure of leading the Masters on the middle of that back nine, and adjusted extremely well,” Spieth said.

Spieth, who eagled the par-5 eighth after bogeys at the fifth and seventh holes left him on level par, says being in front helps make Augusta National play easier, all 2016 evidence aside.

“If you get off to a good start, you’re in control of your own fate, versus needing a little bit of help,” Spieth said.

“This course is a lot easier to play if you feel like you can just hit the center of the greens and wait for your chances. You want to take that approach starting out, but if you start well, it’s easier to stick to that game plan.”

Spieth warns that the course will send everybody’s scores skyrocketing on the weekend and players have to prepare for that mentally.

“On the weekend, it backs you up. It backs everybody up,” he said. “And you’ve got to be prepared for that.

“So I imagine there will be plenty of times, if not from early on tomorrow, that I don’t lead this tournament anymore. Just things happen in this sport. I’m going to try and control what I can control and that’s about it.”

Spieth credited iron shots as much as putts to his crucial back-nine birdie binge.

“It’s nice that I was able to shoot a score like this,” he said. “I felt like I putted well, but I didn’t putt amazingly well. I just hit some really solid iron shots on that back nine to go with just some solid, inside of 10-12 feet, putting.”

While most players would see the 72-hole showdown as one-quarter done, Spieth says he looks at the Masters as a six-round fight.

“This tournament often feels like there’s six rounds with how the weekend grind is,” Spieth said. “Really any major. I feel like I’m kind of one round down out of six, so I’m not getting ahead of myself. It’s just it was a really good start.”

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