Sergio Garcia had an interesting, and not very enjoyable, WGC-Cadillac Championship a year ago.
In the first round, he was blistering the course on the front nine, shooting a 31. Then his game got more than a bit raggedy, shooting 13 strokes worse on the back for a 44. Then, and this is hard to believe, matters got worse. On the second day, he came to the third hole and took a 12 on the par-4.
When reporters approached him after that round, he politely said, “Not today, guys. I don’t have the energy.”
On Thursday, Garcia returned to the scene of his golfing crimes and made some amends, shooting a 6-under-par 66 to be part of a five-way tie for first place.
Talking afterward came much easier Thursday than a year earlier.
“Obviously, I feel quite good now, not great, but I’m starting to feel a little bit better and, hopefully, I can ride that good momentum,” Garcia said.
Garcia, 33, said conditions were benign on the TPC Blue Monster on Thursday.
“A little breeze here and there, but not too bad,” he assessed. “And if you played well, you could score.”
Even the Blue Monster’s most infamous hole, No. 18, wasn’t intimidating.
“It was playing easy, downwind,” Garcia said. “You could carry the water for the most part, I guess, and it was only a wedge or a 9-iron in, so that’s a big difference.”
The Spaniard’s mind-set seems to be much better than a year ago, when shortly after playing Doral he bluntly said, “I’m just not good enough.”
Looming for Garcia and most of the other golfers in the WGC-Cadillac field is the Masters from April 11 to 14. Garcia is putting that out of his mind, though.
“I’m worried about what I’m going to do here this week,” he said. “That’s hard enough. I want to try to do well here. When The Masters comes, I’ll try to figure that one out. But you don’t want to start thinking about the Masters when you are still five weeks out.
“I’ve had good rounds here at Doral, but unfortunately I haven’t had a great tournament yet,” Garcia added. “So, hopefully, I can do that before they tear the course up.”
Within days after the conclusion of this WGC-Cadillac, the Blue Monster, under new Donald Trump ownership, is scheduled to undergo a major redesign.
And just for the historical record, that 12-over Garcia took a year ago is the 10th-highest score on a hole in PGA Tour history. He would have easily made the top 10, except he can thank John Daly for having three of those 10 worst holes.
Thaworn Wiratchant is in a strange city, strange country and playing a strange golf course.
Wiratchant is from Thailand, and his status as the 2012 Asian Tour champion earned him a spot in the tournament. Much to the surprise of fans (“Who the heck is this Wiratchant guy?” was a common question Thursday) and to the surprise of Wiratchant himself, he shot 3-under 69 and is in a tie for 16th place.
And to make Wiratchant’s story even more interesting, he is 46. To add a little more intrigue, some people describe his swing as one of the “most unusual” in professional golf.
“I am an old man,” he said through an interpreter, laughing as he said it. “But this is a big event for me.”
As for that swing of his, he said, “I swing nicely on my practice swing. But when there’s a ball in front of me, it’s different.”
He has never had a coach, and he has never taken a lesson. About 10 years ago, he tried to change his swing.
“It didn’t work at all,” he said.
Then he added, “This swing has earned me a lot of money on the Asian Tour, so I’m not going to try to change it again.”
Can he win at Doral? Even he is doubtful of that. That said, he is certain of one thing:
“I’m very proud to be representing Thailand here.”
• --Tiger Woods’ statistics for his Thursday round of 6-under 66 were impressive: nine birdies, seven fairways hit, 13 greens hit in regulation and, most important, 23 putts.