Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sergio Garcia is NOT a Great Ball Striker

We seriously have to put out a memo about this myth. Everyone in the media seems to be of the belief that Sergio Garcia has always been this amazing ball striker that just could not putt well enough in each of the last three seasons (until last weekend) to pick up a PGA Tour win. That myth was propagated again by Barker Davis in the Washington Times.

Because while Garcia always has struggled with his putter, he has also always been the finest player on the planet from tee to green.

"I don't want to be cocky or anything, but when I'm feeling good, I don't think anybody can hit the ball much better than me, not even Tiger Woods," Garcia said after leading the Players field in driving accuracy (76.8 percent) and greens in regulation (77.8 percent). "Unfortunately, his short game is still better than mine, and that's what I have to keep working on. If I keep doing that and believing in myself, I can at least make it difficult for him."

That is just plain false. Sergio is seeing things through his own lens. Eric Barzeski at the Sand Trap made the same claim about Garcia's ballstriking in his site's podcast post-Players. Then he corrected himself and the record for everyone else. Here's the truth, expressed as a comparison of Tiger Woods and Garcia in 3 important ball striking categories over the last three seasons.

2008 (Driving Accuracy, GIR, Proximity to the Hole):
Sergio: 113, 8, 74
Tiger: 137, 1, 16

2007 (Driving Accuracy, GIR, Proximity to the Hole):
Sergio: 148, 105, 74
Tiger: 152, 1, 3

2006 (Driving Accuracy, GIR, Proximity to the Hole):
Sergio: 129, 37, 93
Tiger: 139, 1, 1

Garcia is no where near Woods when it comes to pertinent ball striking categories. As Barzeski notes, Sergio does put together good weeks, but he is nowhere near consistent. Still, Davis continues.

Garcia is among an elite few who could challenge Woods in next month's U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. The longest layout in major history, the San Diego course will measure more than 7,600 yards for USGA's annual survival-fest. That will add length to the Open's customary emphasis on accuracy, and nobody boasts a better combination of length and accuracy off the tee than Garcia, who has seen his best major finishes at comparable monsters Medinah (runner-up, 1999 PGA), Bethpage Black (fourth, 2002 U.S. Open) and Carnoustie (runner-up, 2007 British Open).

Davis is off on multiple fronts here. First, Torrey Pines will never play to more than 7600 yards at the Open. Mike Davis of the USGA said so himself this week in an article to preview the Open. He's the guy that sets up the place.

Davis said the USGA will utilize the variety of tee boxes available to them, resulting in a course that will play "somewhere in the neighborhood of 74 [7,400 yards] and change up to 75 [7,500 yards] and change." That's a big neighborhood, notwithstanding the USGA's benevolence in backing it down somewhat.

It seems, though, that there is selective memory when it comes to discussing monster length major championship layouts. It all starts with the last two Masters, where he missed the cut. He also missed the cut at last two US Opens - monster courses. (He was DQed from Southern Hills in the PGA.) He was 46th at the Masters in 2006. He finished '06 with two nice finishes at the Open, by far his best major, and the PGA.

With a more complete picture, it becomes obvious that Garcia certainly does possess the talent to be a major champion. But, he is so inconsistent - except in the Open Championship - that it would be difficult to bet on him or even call him the best player to have not won a major.

No comments: