• January 31, 2023

Sergio García, Leading the Players Championship, Still Has Covid on His Mind

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – When Sergio García was asked Thursday how he led the Players Championship with a 65 in the first round, Rory McIlroy, who was part of the same three, shot a seven-over-par-79, García lifted the right hand, holding thumb and forefinger about an inch apart.

“It’s the smallest things – tiny little things – that can go from wrong to right,” said García. “It doesn’t take much.”

Little things have been on García’s mind for a while since a positive coronavirus test in early November forced him to withdraw from the master a few days earlier The competitionwhich resulted in 2017 his greatest triumph in the game.

García said his Covid-19 symptoms were minor, despite believing he infected his wife Angela, who reacted a little worse. He didn’t play again until mid-January, though part of that gap was a typical off-season layoff.

García’s achievements have been nondescript this year, and with the next Masters – back in the usual spot on the calendar – only a few weeks away, he’s planning a more cautious strategy to avoid re-infection with the virus small risk.

Fans have returned to PGA Tour events with up to 10,000 Welcome every day to the Players Championship this week, and García is delighted with the energy the spectators bring. But he’s also careful.

“They know that you can always get it from one of them,” said García, 41 years old. “Not that they’re trying to give it to you or anything, but it could happen.”

He added: “I would like to get closer to the fans, but there is too much risk for us. And when we get Covid, we pay the price. Nobody else does. So we have to be very careful when the fans come back to our game. “

García, who had a two-stroke lead over Brian Harman on Thursday when play was suspended due to darkness, also said he would skip the Tour event the week before the Masters. Last year he had played at the Houston Open, where he missed the cut and noticed symptoms of a cold shortly afterwards.

García’s view of the Masters and his eagerness to compete have changed significantly since the 2017 tournament, the only big win in a brilliant career that needed a special moment. His success that year was apparently all about the little things.

Updated

March 11, 2021, 9:48 p.m. ET

The Masters hadn’t been kind to García in his 18 appearances prior to 2017. It ended up in the top 10 three times and outside the top 30 a dozen times.

García likes to fade the ball and Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters, prefers those who pull their shots. After a while, García’s body language called Augusta National desperate as he got out of his car in the club parking lot. But with an infusion of positivity from Angela, his fiancée, García proved resilient, even encouraged. Despite some notable stumbling blocks in the finals in 2017, he entered a surprise rally to win a playoff.

Now he speaks of the masters as if it were his favorite place to compete.

García’s retirement last fall ended his streak of 84 consecutive majors championships dating back to 1999 when he was only 19 years old. García still had a long way to go to tie Jack Nicklaus’ record of 146 consecutive majors, but he was just four big appearances from the pass. Tom Watson played for the second most consecutive majors.

“It was disappointing, I’m not going to lie,” he said of the end of his series. “I’m not a record breaking guy, but it was nice to get this series going.”

García started the round on Thursday on the back nine and was under on turn three thanks to a birdie on the 15th hole and an eagle on the par-5 16th hole. He was on par for the next eight holes but finished with a vortex as he birded the seventh and eighth holes, then sank an 18-foot eagle putt on par-5 # 9 after a spectacular placed second shot from 268 yards was struck with a 5-wood.

“This golf course fits my eye perfectly,” said García, the 2008 player champion, with a grin. “I feel more comfortable.”

McIlroy’s lap was more of the norm on a day when the greens were quick and the rough a little more lush than in May. the month this event took place for several years. Henrik Stenson shot 85; Tony Finau, who finished in the top four three times this year, shot 78; and Rickie Fowler’s slump continued on a 77. McIlroy hit his first shot of the day out of bounds, and his first two shots at No. 18 (the ninth hole of his round) ended up in the water. resulting in a quadruple bogey 8.

García brought up the subject of McIlroy’s play on Thursday and again used his right thumb and forefinger to make a point.

“You don’t have to be that far away to be punished a lot,” he advised. “Just a bit away.”

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