Mark NessmithThis Week at TravelGolf.com: January 31, 2006

Sergio "Señor Saturday" Garcia hits
his stride with a Sunday meltdown

So, four tournaments into 2006, we can finally say with certainty that the PGA Tour's season has begun in earnest.

With so many tour pros playing out of character (witness Chad Campbell winning the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic or Nathan Green, Charles Warren and Carl Pettersson placing the top 10 at the at the Sony Open), it was mighty comforting Sunday to finally see one of the top guys doing exactly what it is we expect him to do in the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines.

Tiger pulling down another clutch victory with a steely performance? Well, that was pretty cool, but no.

Jose Maria Olazabal missing a heartbreaking four-footer on the second playoff hole to lose to Woods? A gripping moment to be sure, but with two green jackets to his name, Jose Maria's no choker - the guy played some good golf and got a bad break.

No, the guy who really let his true colors show Sunday was none other than peppy little Sergio Garcia, who began the day playing in the final pairing (with Woods) for the first time since the U.S. Open at Bethpage's Black Course in 2002.

With the eyes of golfdom watching he and Woods, Senor Saturday proceeded to launch his ball into five traps and a beer tent (humiliation generally builds thirst - even more so when it's televised). By the turn it was clear that Tiger was playing the scoreboard, not Garcia. Needing an eagle to get into the playoff with Tiger, rookie Green and Olazabal, Garcia seemingly employed his favorite weapon: A Thurston Howell III model putter with knobby bamboo shaft and seashell head lashed on with palm fronds. (Okay, in all fairness, I haven't verified this - but I think the upcoming Darrell Survey will bear this out. I mean, how else do you explain his Chris Baldwinesque putting?)

In the post-round press conference, a reporter asked him about his putting. "I hit some good putts," Sergio said (neglecting to add: "A LOT of good putts").

Next up for Senor Saturday is "a little break next week" and then getting "ready for TPC and The Masters."

When the Masters rolls around, Garcia may have his stroke in a groove and could very well be high on the leaderboard - on Saturday. But does anyone care to place a bet on where he'll be come Sunday afternoon? Bunker or beer tent?

As always, TravelGolf.com welcomes your comments.



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Troon NorthHigh-end New West duel:
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With more than 200 golf courses in the Phoenix-Scottsdale resort corridor alone and Tucson drawing tourists as a golf destination in its own right, Arizona is arguably the new golf capital of the United States. The state boasts more high-quality golf courses than any of the longstanding traditional meccas. Which makes the prospect of selecting the Top 10 golf courses in all of Arizona perhaps TravelGolf.com's most insane mission yet. Nevertheless, here goes! At no. 1.

Also: From Akron to Phoenix-Scottsdale with the Cheap Bastard




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Gary PlayerSpotless and easy: Gary
Player Signature supplies
perfect fairways, scores

The Gary Player Signature Course at Westin Mission Hills Resort in Mission Viejo, Calif. is green. Exceedingly green. And once you play a few holes, you'll forgive their obsession with keeping it that way. Especially after the picture-perfect conditions lead you to your career-best score, as it does for many players of this lush course. While it's not an easy golf course, the meticulous Player design and impeccable conditioning will have you on your "A" game most the time.

Also: How to do Palm Springs on a budget


Golfers ChokeProfessor studies why some
golfers choke under pressure

When pressure's on the line, some golfers seem to be oblivious and rise to whatever challenge is thrown their way. Others seem to collapse, often with spectacularly horrible results -- take Jean Van de Velde's 1999 British Open breakdown for example. So what causes pressure-induced failure -- choking -- for a top athlete? External distractions may be annoying, but a University of Chicago study may prove that it's all in your head.

Also: 10 ways to be a lousy golf partner



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