Sergio Garcia: Just Keep Believing

Sergio Garcia managed to squeeze out a third sub-70 round in Saturday’s third round at The Barclays on Bethpage Black. He’s the only player who has. This was quite a feat because weather circumstances conspired to put the greens over the edge. Over the edge, as in burned out.

The Tour explained that the guys wanted the greens hard and fast and they did everything they’ve done all week long to make sure that happened, syringing — lightly watering with a hose — the greens at night and then again in the morning. But the weather forecast was for cloud cover that never materialized. Hence baked out greens. Sergio explained:

This will tell you how fast it was:  Usually when you are putting on fast greens, you have an idea where the ball is going to stop.  And today, you didn’t.  (Laughter).  You thought the ball was going to stop two feet behind the hole, and it went six.  So you know, it was pretty much as simple as that.

I thought my putt on 3, I was standing over it thinking I need to be careful, it’s downhill, it should be quick.  When I hit it, I thought, eh, hit it a little too hard. But I thought it was going to go no farther than Nick’s putt, which was three feet.  I don’t know, I think I had like a seven or eight‑footer.  You know, it was just one of those days.

This will tell you how fast it was: Tiger Woods 3-putted four times:

I played a beautiful round of golf, and unfortunately just didn’t clean up on the greens, having four 3‑putts.  I’ve never seen greens change like this; to go from what they were yesterday to today.  The grass even seems slippery.  Gary out there on the first hole, he put his putter down and it slipped, we had a little bit of a chuckle about it.  It was unbelievable how fast they got.

I’m sure it will be fast for them tomorrow.  Some of the greens have grass.  Some of them are a little bit on the dirt side.  You know, they are right at the limit, but again, they have enough moisture in them.  But they are not where they are repelling where you can’t hold the ball on the green, but they are just slippery once you start putting.

All week this practice putting green over here has been a foot faster, maybe a foot and a half faster than on the golf course, and all of a sudden that putting green is actually slower than the ones on the golf course, and that was a bit of a shocker, at least to our group.

Brent Snedeker walked off the 18th and muttered to nearby media, “They lost them.”

Ian Poulter held forth with a profanity-laced diatribe which was barely modulated when he moved his complaints over to Twitter.

The earlier players didn’t suffer so much; Kevin Stadler shot up the leaderboard with a 6-under par 65 and into 3rd by himself. If the greens become more accommodating on Sunday and he can keep it going, the three strokes he’s behind don’t offer much comfort to Sergio.

Nick Watney is in 2nd two strokes back and spent all day long going nowhere. He shot even par with, get this, five birdies and five bogeys, four of the bogeys coming on the back nine when the greens were good and crusty.

Even though Sergio shot 2-under, he had setbacks all day long like everybody else. He went birdie/bogey three times by the time he finished the 10th hole. And as a measure of just how good he played was, he birdied 11 and 13 and made pars the rest of the way in. With the unpredictability of the greens, that was quite a feat.

He was asked about whether he required a mental adjustment given the distractions of the up-and-down nature of his front nine:

No, I didn’t really make any mental adjustment.  I think it was great.  I think it was fortunate to do that to make sure that my momentum was still going the right way, even after making a bogey.

I realized that bogeys were going to happen no matter what.  I mean, you get — like I said before, you make a bogey, you could have a ten‑footer and hit what you think is a good putt and hit it six feet by on these greens.

So I just kept believing what I was doing, what I’ve been doing, and just keep my patience.

“I just kept believing what I was doing…” I think the belief in what he was doing goes all the way back to last week and working with a silent-partner caddie rather than being at the disposal of a Tour caddie telling him what to do. With his win in Greensboro, that worked out great.

And now he comes to town with a CBS spotter and friend on the bag basically doing the same thing: just carry the bag and stay out of the way. It was very unusual to see a Tour player of Sergio’s stature in the game pacing off yardages to sprinkler heads.

But what this has done is unleash the “right brain” in him, his creative side, which is just perfect for a feel player. And that same feel that he’s been resuscitating in the way he plays the game was no doubt invaluable as he took in the sheen of the greens all afternoon.

He will be paired with Watney again on Sunday and if the Tour can’t salvage the greens and Sergio goes backward from 10-under, guys as far back as six strokes have a chance if they play like Stadler did on Saturday. Here’s the chase pack:

8-under: Nick Watney

7-under: Kevin Stadler

6-under: Brandt Snedeker and Bob Estes

5-under: Brian Harman, Greg Chalmers, Ryan Moore and John Senden

4-under: Phil Mickelson, William McGirt, Tim Clark, Louis Oosthuizen, Lee Westwood, Tom Gillis, Charl Schwartzel and Tiger Woods

Even though they’re six shots back, I’m not sure I’d want any of the guys in that group chasing me.

We’ll see how Sergio manages his day. It’s why we watch.

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