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Sergio will be Sergio, even if he wins

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By Zak Kozuchowski

GolfWRX Managing Editor

If Sergio Garcia wins The Barclays tomorrow at Bethpage Black, the following things will happen:

1. With back-to-back victories, Garcia will be considered the hottest hand in golf. Although he withdrew from next week’s Deutsch Bank Championship, he will become one of the favorites to win the PGA Tour’s FedExCup Playoffs.

2. Garcia will become the de facto leader of the European Ryder Cup team, which is impressive considering he did not ensure a spot on Jose Maria Olazabal’s team until Monday, when he won the rain-delayed Wyndham Championship. 

3. Garcia’s play will convince us that he can and will win a major championship. 

All of these arguments are valid. For years, Garcia has proven that he is one of the Tour’s best ball strikers, and his 14-6-4 Ryder Cup record is evidence that he is one of golf’s most fiery competitors. At times though, he’s been a little too fiery.

The 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black was an example of his combustable nature —  “Sergio being Sergio” you might call it. Garcia, who was 22 at the time, was having trouble pulling the trigger over his shots. The video reply is painful to watch — waggle, regrip, waggle, regrip, etc.

Not surprisingly, Garcia was taunted by a few New York City golf fans for his lengthy preshot routine. So Garcia did what every athlete has wanted to do to New York sports fans at times. He flipped them the bird.

Similar stories of abnormal behavior from Garcia have accumulated over the years. There was the time he spit in the cup at Doral, the time he kicked his shoe down the fairway in the World Match Play and the time he kicked a sign on the European Tour. Maybe the strangest thing Garcia has ever done was to say after a disappointing weekend at the 2012 Masters that he wasn’t good enough to win a major.

But Garcia is good enough to win a major. And he shouldn’t need a win at The Barclays to prove it. He certainly doesn’t need to win at Bethpage Black to redeem himself to New York City golf fans for his lapse in judgement, either.

Yes, Garcia has provided golf fans with several uncomfortable moments over the years, but he’s also given us a unfiltered glimpse into the thoughts of a top Tour player. Those emotional outbursts we complain about? They’re the same emotions we love in the Ryder Cup. The immature excuses Garcia has made at times? They’re the foundation of the confidence he has displayed in his 18 victories across the globe.

When we’re talking about Sergio Garcia’s future, what we’re really talking about is his putting. And right now, he’s rolling putts better than ever with his right hand positioned in a pencil-style grip. Garcia accepted that he would never be a great putter with a conventional-style grip, and has adapted well enough with the new grip to rank in the top 30 in the Tour’s strokes gained — putting statistic.

Maybe we need to look at Garcia the same way as he’s come to look at putting. He’s never going to be conventional. He’s not going to do it the way others have. But he can still get it done.

And I hope he does.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz and GolfWRX at @GolfWRX

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  1. Troy Vayanos

    Aug 26, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Yes Sergio is one of those guys that will always be unique amongst touring professionals. I think it gets lost just how good a career he has had because he hasn’t won a major. 18 victories worldwide says enough just how good a career he has had. At present he’s close to the hottest man in world golf and will play a vital role in the European Ryder Cup team.

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In this episode of The Gear Dive, Johnny chats with his good buddy Bryan LaRoche. They chat on life and do a deep dive into the drivers of 2020.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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The Wedge Guy: The 5 indisputable rules of bunker play

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I received a particularly interesting question this week from Art S., who said he has read all the tips about how to hit different sand shots, from different sand conditions, but it would be helpful to know why. Specifically, here’s what Art had to say:

“I recently found myself in a few sand traps in multiple lies and multiple degrees of wetness. I tried remembering all of the “rules” of how to stand, how much to open my club, how much weight to shift forward or back, etc. based on the Golf Channel but was hoping that you might be able to do a blog on the ‘why’ of sand play so that we can understand it rather than memorizing what to do. Is there any way you can discuss what the club is doing and why you open the club, open your stance, what you’re aiming for when you open up, and any other tips?”

Well, Art, you asked a very good question, so let’s try to cover the basics of sand play–the “geometry and physics” at work in the bunkers–and see if we can make all of this more clear for you.

First of all, I think bunkers are among the toughest of places to find your ball. We see the tour players hit these spectacular bunker shots every week, but realize that they are playing courses where the bunkers are maintained to PGA Tour standards, so they are pretty much the same every hole and every week. This helps the players to produce the “product” the tour is trying to deliver–excitement. Of course, those guys also practice bunker play every day.

All of us, on the other hand, play courses where the bunkers are different from one another. This one is a little firmer, that one a little softer. So, let me see if I can shed a little light on the “whys and wherefores” of bunker play.

The sand wedge has a sole with a downward/backward angle built into it – we call that bounce. It’s sole (no pun intended) function is to provide a measure of “rejection” force or lift when the club makes contact with the sand. The more bounce that is built into the sole of the wedge, the more this rejection force is applied. And when we open the face of the wedge, we increase the effective bounce so that this force is increased as well.

The most basic thing you have to assess when you step into a bunker is the firmness of the sand. It stands to reason that the firmer the texture, the more it will reject the digging effect of the wedge. That “rejection quotient” also determines the most desirable swing path for the shot at hand. Firmer sand will reject the club more, so you can hit the shot with a slightly more descending clubhead path. Conversely, softer or fluffier sand will provide less rejection force, so you need to hit the shot with a shallower clubhead path so that you don’t dig a trench.

So, with these basic principles at work, it makes sense to remember these “Five Indisputable Rules of Bunker Play”

  1. Firmer sand will provide more rejection force – open the club less and play the ball back a little to steepen the bottom of the clubhead path.
  2. Softer sand will provide less rejection force – open the club more and play the ball slighter further forward in your stance to create a flatter clubhead path through the impact zone.
  3. The ball will come out on a path roughly halfway between the alignment of your body and the direction the face is pointing – the more you open the face, the further left your body should be aligned.
  4. On downslope or upslope lies, try to set your body at right angles to the lie, so that your swing path can be as close to parallel with the ground as possible, so this geometry can still work. Remember that downhill slopes reduce the loft of the club and uphill slopes increase the loft.
  5. Most recreational golfers are going to hit better shots from the rough than the bunkers, so play away from them when possible (unless bunker play is your strength).

So, there you go, Art. I hope this gives you the basics you were seeking.

As always, I invite all of you to send in your questions to be considered for a future article. It can be about anything related to golf equipment or playing the game–just send it in. You can’t win if you don’t ask!

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Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Task to target

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In this week’s episode: How having a target will improve your direction and contact you have with the ball.

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