JACKSON, Miss. – Sergio Garcia is searching for his game. That includes putting with his eyes closed. The knee-jerk reaction is to conclude that this may be the ultimate act of desperation. But that’s not the case as Garcia explained.
“Would you believe me if I told you I’ve been doing it for about three years?” Garcia said. “I’ve gone on and off, but like Augusta I won it playing with my eyes closed every single putt and some of the other wins, too. I’ve tried — I feel like it gives me a little more freedom to feel the stroke instead of kind of — sometimes we get too focused on trying to make it perfect and kind of following with the eyes and everything. So, this way I feel like I just feel it and I just let me natural ability kind of take over instead of telling myself what to do.”
Garcia canned an 8-foot par putt on his first hole of the day, the par-3 10th, and he enjoyed a level of comfort on the greens on Friday that has been sorely lacking. He went on to make five birdies and just one bogey en route to shooting his second straight 4-under 68 at the Country Club of Jackson to position himself for a weekend run at his first PGA Tour title since the 2017 Masters. Garcia trails M.J. Daffue by two strokes at the midway point.
Putting with his eyes closed.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 2, 2020
It’s been an especially lean run as of late for Garcia. He missed out on the FedEx Cup playoffs, failed to play the weekend at his first two starts this season and earned another dubious distinction when he slipped out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking this week for the first time in nine years.
This is the first time Garcia has played the Sanderson Farms Championship, and the ballstrikers’ paradise is proving to be a good fit. Garcia leads the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and ranks fourth in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green. It is his ongoing struggles with the flatstick that remains of concern: he ranks 60th in SGP. Still, that stands out as a significant improvement. While it’s an extremely small sample size, Garcia entered the week ranked 246th in SGP this season on Tour, losing nearly 1 ½ strokes per round to the field. Garcia said he’s tried just about every putting grip of late, switching from conventional to the claw to lefthand low with little success.
“I talked to my wife, to Angela,” he said, “and I have to stick to something and go with it no matter what. I’m in a stage of my career where I can’t be jumping back and forth too much because then I get no rhythm whatsoever. It’s about slowly building up confidence. I feel like my game is – I’ve been saying it for a couple of months now, I feel like it’s close. It’s right there.”
Garcia appeared surprised by the sudden interest in his eyes-closed putting technique, noting he’s putted that way for 70-75 percent of the time the last four years. Billy Casper used to practice putting in the dark to work on his feel and Johnny Miller won the 1994 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am putting with his eyes closed.
“I would love to putt with my eyes open, but I feel like my stroke is more consistent when I kind of try to forget about it and just kind of feel it. That’s what I’ve been doing,” Garcia said. “I’ve tried to putt with my eyes open again here and there and I tried it at the U.S. Open a couple weeks ago, obviously didn’t work very well. At the end of the day we all try to find a way to feel comfortable. Jordan (Spieth) used to putt looking at the hole. It’s kind of like the same thing.”
And what about those people who may think Garcia has lost the plot?
“I don’t care what they think,” he said. “They’re not out there playing. I’m going to do whatever I feel is best for me.”