Sergio Garcia was dressed like a Twenty20 cricket player here at the WGC Cadillac Championship yesterday – and scored like one, too. The Spaniard racked up a 12 on the par-four third, the worst single hole of his career, hitting four balls into the water.
Decked in a hideous sponsors' shirt which featured his name emblazoned over the number 17 (apparently, that is the number of yards this make of club adds to your drive), Garcia birdied the first, made par on the second and then octuple-bogeyed the 438-yarder.
"I don't have the energy today, sorry guys," Garcia said to reporters, after signing for his 76 for a total of five over. That was understandable following his efforts to make up for the calamity on the third.A Cadillac Championship sickener, although perhaps it was not as cruel as that suffered by Craig Connelly.
In a scene that will be unrivalled for comedy in this golfing year, the Scottish caddie, known as "The Wee Man" danced around the tee-box on the 15th when mistakenly believing his employer had just earned him 50 per cent of a top-of-the-range Cadillac. Thirty seconds earlier, Paul Casey had promised Connelly they would share the prize if he managed to hole-in-one. So his ball duly disappeared on the 166-yarder and so Connelly leapt about like a lottery winner. An official then pointed out to the pair that the car was only on offer for an ace on the 13th. A classic case of "just look what you could have won".
It was the perfect warm-up for the drama to follow. Justin Rose was three behind the leader, Bubba Watson, who was on 17 under. Meanwhile, in a group on nine under were Tiger Woods and the world No 1 Rory McIlroy. This was McIlroy's last competitive round before the Masters. The 22-year-old will take three weeks off to prepare himself the season's first major. The bookmakers has McIlroy as favourite, but his great compadre, Graeme McDowell, believes Woods should head the market.
"I think Tiger is the favourite for the Masters," said McDowell, who was trying to crack the top 10 here. "Rory is going to have a fair bit of expectation on him going in there. He's probably expected to win, and that's tough. It'll be a case of how he handles it. If he's still No 1 going into Augusta, I think it's going to be a big ask for him."
Saying that, McDowell believes his countryman is ideally suited to the course. "If Rory McIlroy designed a golf course, it would look a lot like Augusta National," he said. So why does he favour Woods ahead of him, then? "His record at Augusta isn't bad is it?" replied McDowell, not only thinking of Woods's four wins, but also his two fourth places in the last two years. "He's got the ball-flight you need and he controls his irons so well coming into those firm greens. He knows Augusta better than anyone and believes he can do it around there."
Rose concurred. "Rory's game suits Augusta so well in terms of ball flight and ball striking. In fact there is nobody it suits better right now,"said the Englishman, before resuming his mission to become England's first winner of a WGC strokeplay title.
"But I think you have to look at Tiger, you really do. He's played poorly and finished in the top three nearly every time. Even on his comeback in 2010, when he hadn't hit a ball for four months, he nearly won it. Last year, he could have and should have won it. For me, he just has to be half decent with his game and he's right there at Augusta."