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Chipping In - Garcia's year to shine?

By: Nick Bonfield | Wed 29 Jan 2014

Garcia is back and with a bang!  The Spaniard has now won twice in his last three starts. Is this a sign that Garcia ready to mount a major charge?....

By Nick Bonfield


Garcia to shine in 2014?Sergio Garcia

Everyone knows, and has done for some time, that Sergio Garcia is one of the most effortlessly elegant and naturally talented golfers in the world game. But, at the same time, he’s one of the most difficult and frustrating players to watch, observe and comprehend. His body language, attitude and demeanor often aren’t what you’d expect from a player of such caliber, especially given the success he’s enjoyed since turning professional. The signs, though, are extremely positive for the Spaniard, who seems to have made a conscious effort to enjoy the game he’s so fortunate to be so good at. He won the Thailand Golf Championship last December and showed class and composure to beat Mikko Ilonen in a play-off in Qatar for his second win in three starts. His major credentials have never been in doubt, and given how he’s started 2014, this could be the year he finally realises his full potential.

Stat Watch

I always find it interesting to look back on the statistics from past tournaments to see if there is anything that captures my interest. Following the Qatar Masters, a number of figures grabbed my attention:

- George Coetzee managed to record his second consecutive top-5 finish despite finishing outside the top 70 in both Greens in Regulation and Driving Accuracy. No one else inside the top 50 had a worse cumulative rank in those two categories. So how did he manage to do so well? He ranked first in both Putts Per Round and Putts Per GIR. If he improves his long game next week, he’ll be very difficult to beat.

- Sergio Garcia managed to win without ranking inside the top 15 in Putts Per Round, Putts Per GIR, Driving Accuracy or Greens in Regulation.

- Sweden’s Magnus A. Carlsson hit an astonishing 93.1% of Greens in Regulation.

Good signs for Olesen

It was pleasing to see Thorbjorn Olesen play some good golf en route to a tie for third in Qatar. The Dane has been billed as one of the European Tour’s hottest prospects since he earned his card in 2011, but he struggled for the majority of the 2013 season. Believe it or not, his top five at the Qatar Masters was only his second top 10 since the 2013 Masters. Olesen possesses a great mix of talent, determination and athleticism, and he’s one of the players who can combat the ever-increasing pool of young Americans enjoying success on the PGA Tour. He needs to start winning on a more regular basis, and his performance in Qatar could well be the springboard for that.

PGA Tour:

Great ScottScott Stallings

It seems every week, players who I've neglected to mention in a certain category prove they are worthy of such recognition. I've spoken recently about Jordan Spieth, Harris English, Patrick Reed and Chris Kirk, and whilst Scott Stallings is a touch older, he fits into the 'talented young American with a good chance of making a Ryder Cup debut in 2014' bracket. Stallings is an exciting player with an aggressive disposition and excellent ball-striking skills, and his career progression makes for encouraging reading. He won the Greeenbrier Classic in 2011 and the True South Classic in 2012, but the Farmers Insurance Open is in a different league completely. Stallings has elevated his career to the next level, and the knowledge he's good enough to outcompete a world-class field will do wonders for his confidence and self-belief going forward.

Woods’ Woe

I don’t mind admitting that I’m a surveyor of golfing odds and someone who is occasionally tempted to stake money on someone I deem to be reasonably priced. One thing I would never do, though, is back anyone who is 5/2, no matter who they are or what form they are in. Woods had that price before the start of the Farmers Insurance Open, and proceeded to card a joint third-highest PGA Tour career round en route to missing the secondary cut at a venue where he’s won eight times. The Woods of old simply wouldn’t have dropped nine shots in seven holes, no matter how bad he was playing.

This week:

Sterling field in Dubai

The Dubai Desert Classic takes place this week, and the tournament organisers have done a brilliant job in attracting every past winner to celebrate the event’s 25th anniversary. It promises to be an intriguing week, with Woods out of sync, McIlroy in form and a host of other top players looking good in the previous two ‘desert swing’ events. The excitement has built over the past two tournaments – with a tight finish in Abu Dhabi followed by a riveting play-off in Qatar – so let’s hope the stretch culminates in a McIlroy/Woods duel over the back nine on Sunday. Sadly, with the American unable to keep his ball on the short grass and quick greens guaranteed, I can’t see that scenario materialising.

Loudest hole in golf returns

This week, the PGA Tour heads to Arizona for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and the famous par-3 16th will once again attract significant attention. It’s the loudest, most entertaining and most boisterous hole in golf, with tens of thousands of drink and sun-addled fans cheering, jeering and creating an atmosphere incongruous with the sport’s perception. It’s often labeled as a divisive subject, and I understand the naysayers to some extent, but I think it’s brilliant. It's a captivating spectacle, it's embraced by players and fans alike, it helps banish some misconceptions about the sport and helps promote the game to a non golf-centric audience.

Image Credits - European Tour Facebook (www.facebook.com/TheEuropeanTour), Image credit - Titleist Facebook page

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Tags: tiger woods phil mickelson PGA Tour european tour

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