5 Things You Need To Know Now

Tiger Woods during Day 2 of the Tavistock Cup.

Tiger Woods during Day 2 of the Tavistock Cup.

Sergio Garcia began the 2009 season ranked No. 2 in the world. This weekend, he made his first PGA Tour start of the season at the Transitions Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla., ranked 85th.

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Sergio Garcia during the second round of the Transitions Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla.

Between those bookends, he suffered a broken heart after a girlfriend breakup, lost his enthusiasm for the game and lost the game that made him a top-10 player for about a decade.

“A mix of those things kind of pulled me down,” Garcia said during a media briefing at the tournament. He finished T-15. “When you’ve been (highly ranked for so long), it’s a little bit tougher to swallow I guess.”

Garcia, 31, was asked if he wants to get back into the top 10. You might say his answer was interesting, as well as different from his views of a decade ago.

“No, not really,” he said. “I know I’ll be there. I think it’s a matter of time more than wanting to.”

Garcia took a couple of months off after last August’s PGA Championship. He says the break helped him recharge and start loving the game again. A tie for ninth this year at the Qatar Masters also lifted him.

“It’s definitely improved a lot,” Garcia said of his enthusiasm. “I definitely feel like I want to be out there. I’m looking forward to trying to hit shots. I can do better, but at least if you’re looking forward to it, it helps.”

Garcia said his game feels good but needs to improve under the pressure of contention. He will compete next at Bay Hill and then at the Masters. He says his primary goals are to enjoy playing, let things happen and keep improving.

Clearly Garcia is more accepting than before. Slumps will do that. He made a point to say he doesn’t view his future in terms of “I should be there.”

Rather, he’s seeking to regain the confidence that made him one of the world’s best players at a young age.

“When you are feeling confident,” he said, “you don’t think about things. You just kind of do them.”

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Anthony Wall plays his approach shot on the 10th hole during the second round of the Sicilian Open at the Donnafugata Golf Resort and Spa.

•••

It isn't often that you can buy success for pennies, but England’s Anthony Wall did just that in last week’s Sicilian Open.

Wall contended all week after investing in a 59 pence (approximately 95 cents) on an iPhone app that improved his putting.

“I bought a Dave Stockton iPhone app about reading greens and that is the best 59 pence I have ever spent, because his tips have really simplified a few things for me,” Wall said.

“I haven’t holed everything, but I have hit my putts a lot better," he added. “It was a bargain, I have to say – you don’t get many valuable lessons for 59 pence these days!”

•••

The distance between Tokyo and Tampa is just more than 7,000 miles, but many in the field at the Transitions Championship are expressing their compassion for those in Japan, who are reeling from the devastation caused by an earthquake and tsunami.

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Ryuji Imada

PGA Tour player Ryuji Imada lives in Tampa, but was born in Hiroshima, Japan, and lived there until he moved to the U.S. at age 14. Since then, Imada has been a permanent fixture in the U.S., attending the University of Georgia and eventually starting his professional career in 2000 on the Nationwide Tour and then making the jump to the PGA Tour in 2005.

With Japan in peril, Imada wanted to help and received advice from Vijay Singh, who suggested drafting a handwritten letter asking for help from his PGA Tour brethren.

Imada drafted the letter on March 16 and made 150 copies to be put in each of the player’s lockers.

“Something terrible happened and I just wanted to do what I could,” said Imada, who missed the cut.

Several players informed Imada that they would offer assistance. But he was particularly heartened by the actions of his friend and fellow Bulldogs teammate Bubba Watson, who donated a check for $50,000 after his final round.

Bobby Gates and Brandt Snedeker also decided to participate, with Gates donating $250 for each birdie and Snedeker $500.

Many players, including Mark Wilson and Joe Durant, intend to donate as well, but are looking for the PGA Tour for some guidance regarding a more concerted effort. The Tour has created a link on the players-only Tour Links website, but that is likely just the start.

Said Watson, explaining his reason to donate: “I grew up playing with Ryuji, talking to him and seeing how it affected his home country and knowing when stuff happens around here, we get behind it all the way. . . . Ryuji is a good friend of mine, we went to the same school, and then seeing K.J. donate some money just hit me, hit my heart, and I knew I should do something.”

•••

The Masters is less than a month away, and the curious are anxious to see if Tiger Woods is making progress fixing his game. That's why a couple thousand residents, sponsors and invitees settled in within the gated community of Isleworth, near Orlando, Fla., to watch the Tavistock Cup.

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Tiger Woods during Day 2 of the Tavistock Cup.

The two-day team competition among multimillionaires who also happen to be some of the world's best pros provided Woods more opportunity to work on his swing overhaul.

Butch Harmon, Tiger’s former swing coach, said during the NBC telecast of the WGC Cadillac Championship: “I think the next two days at Isleworth, in that tournament they are having. . . where he can be relaxed, and play a course that he knows, if he doesn’t play well then, I think there are some real problems.”

Perhaps no one knows better than Thomas Bjorn, who has played in the same group as Tiger three times in the past month. (On Monday, Bjorn teamed with Adam Scott to face Woods/Arjun Atwal.) Since ousting Woods in the first round of the WGC Match Play on Feb. 23, Bjorn already can see a difference in Woods’ game. The final-round 66 Sunday at Doral was particularly noteworthy.

“That’s what he needs, rounds like that,” Bjorn said. “He needs to see things going his way a little bit, and he’s working hard. He’ll be back to his best soon enough.”

Ask Woods, and he’ll say he’s getting close.

“It’s getting better,” he said. “I hit a couple of squirrely ones (today), but it’s feeling a lot more consistent.”

The head-scratching miscues – like the two drives at Doral that traveled less than 200 yards – seem to be fixed, so that’s progress. He drove the green on the 349-yard 16th, with a 3-wood, so that’s promising. And he seemed in good spirits, so that, too, is encouraging.

Yes, he chunked a shot out of a fairway bunker, he hit a few poor pitches and he flared a few irons. But he also made three birdies, the most impressive on the par-4 eighth, where he bombed his drive down the right and wedged to a foot. After carrying the team for much of the front nine, Atwal quipped: “Glad Tiger showed up.”

•••

Woods has plenty of company when it comes to prepping for the Masters. Martin Kaymer, for one, is taking a new approach to get ready for the year's first major.

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Martin Kaymer tees off in the first round of the Transitions Championship.

Kaymer may be the World No. 1, but he doesn’t play like it at Augusta National. He has missed the cut there in each of his three starts.

Kaymer has altered his pre-Masters preparations in an attempt to end the streak of missed cuts. He played the event preceding the Masters, the Houston Open, each of the past two years. This year, he will arrive in Augusta the week prior to the Masters after practicing in Scottsdale next week.

Kaymer finished in the top 10 in the final three majors of 2010, including a victory at the PGA Championship, after missing the cut at Augusta National, where he shot 76-73.

“My problem has always been my short game,” Kaymer said. “I struggle with my putting and if I miss a green. . . . Maybe I had a little too much respect.

“I think for me the Masters is probably the most difficult major to win.”

Kaymer said he has been working on a right-to-left tee shot, which is key on several of Augusta’s holes, such as the par-5 13th. He said it is difficult for him to reach the green in two shots because he struggles to turn the ball around the corner of the dogleg.

“(A draw) would make the golf course easier,” Kaymer said. “I’m getting more comfortable. I don’t know if it will be ready this year, but I’m getting closer every year.”

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