Notebook: Garcia earns first Vardon trophy

Notebook: Garcia earns first Vardon trophy

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Schecter Lee

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (AP) — With the PGA Tour season officially over, it’s now official: Sergio Garcia has won the Vardon Trophy, the first European-born winner since 1937 to have the lowest adjusted scoring average.

Garcia played 72 rounds with an adjusted average of 69.12, overtaking Phil Mickelson (69.17) at the Tour Championship. Anthony Kim finished third at 69.28.

The last European-born winner was Harry “Lighthorse” Cooper in 1937, the first year of the award when it was based on points. Tiger Woods was not eligible because it requires 60 rounds, and Woods only played 25 before he was injured.

Padraig Harrington wrapped up the points-based PGA player of the year award after winning the PGA Championship, which came with a 50-point bonus for winning two majors in one year. Harrington, who also won the British Open, finished with 116 points to finish ahead of Woods, who had 78 points in six events.

AN AMAZING JOURNEY: D.J. Gregory walked up the 18th fairway on the Magnolia Course at Disney and completed his mission of walking every hole of every round every week on the PGA Tour this year.

Gregory is a 30-year-old with cerebral palsy who was given little hope of ever walking. But he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Springfield (Mass.) College in sports management, and walked every hole to raise awareness.

He wound up walking 3,256 holes for a total of 988 miles. He traveled 79,838 miles to get to every event, starting with Mercedes-Benz Championship on Maui and ending at Disney. He consumed 280 bottles of water, 259 bottles of sports drink and 332 sodas. He traveled to 23 states and two countries (England and Canada).

The other statistic he kept: Gregory fell 29 times during his journey, a source of pride and some humor.

“The worst was at the Bob Hope,” he said earlier this year. “I tripped over some TV cables twice in 30 seconds.”

Gregory chose one player to walk with at each tournament, interviewed them later and spent the year writing a blog. He has considered writing a book on his quest. He walked the final event at Disney with Jason Gore, but when he finished, Robert Gamez and Rich Beem were at the 18th green to celebrate.

But he might not be finished.

His legs stiff, body rocking from side to side as he walked, it was easy to spot him heading toward the induction ceremony Monday night at the World Golf Hall of Fame.

When someone mentioned that he still had the silly season, Gregory’s eyes lit up.

“I think I’m going to the Merrill Lynch Shootout,” he said.

KIWI CHALLENGE: The Kiwi Challenge will be shown this weekend on NBC Sports, and while Hunter Mahan won the 36-hole event on two courses in New Zealand two weeks ago (along with $1.5 million), the broadcast marks the debut of Steve Williams as a commentator.

Based on one exchange, the caddie for Tiger Woods might want to stick to looping or racing.

Williams said he was amazed how much information was available on all the players. But he wishes he could have one mulligan.

“On the 13th hole at Kauri Cliffs, the moment Hunter Mahan’s second shot left the club, I knew it was well over the green, and my first thought was that it was a bad yardage,” Williams said in an interview with tournament organizers. “But these days, caddies who work for this caliber of player don’t make mistakes with yardages.

“I made the call on air, which was a poor call on my behalf,” he said. “However, it was the first thought in my head.”

WHAT’S IN A NAME: For all the fretting over the future of the Wachovia Championship after the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank was acquired by Wells Fargo, not much will change.

Tournament director Kym Hougham said officials decided to leave the name alone — Wachovia Championship.

SHARE THE WEALTH: Vijay Singh didn’t start winning tournaments until there were two months left in the season. Tiger Woods didn’t play the final three months of the season. There were seven multiple winners, the most since 2005.

All that did was spread some of the wealth around on the PGA Tour this year.

Singh won the money title for the third time in his career with $6,601,094, the lowest amount to lead the money list since Woods won $5,687,777 in 2001.

But a record eight players won at least $4 million. And just 20 years after Curtis Strange became the first player to earn $1 million in a season, 104 players made $1 million or more this year.

And the most staggering number might have been the $852,752 by Martin Laird to finish at No. 125 and keep his card.

BUBBA LEARNS: Bubba Watson is best known for his prodigious length, and he used to love showing it off. Three years ago at Doral, he pulled out his driver with the pink shaft and belted one shot after another over the golf school on the back of the range. With each strike, he would casually look over both shoulders to see who was watching him.

Now, it seems Watson has figured out that it’s best to spend more time on other parts of his game.

“Putting is the name of the game,” he said recently. “If you can putt, it doesn’t matter how many fairways you hit and how many greens you hit. If you putt well, you’re going to win golf tournaments. So I’ve tried to work on my putting and my short game and my irons.”

As for the driver? It’s still in the bag. It still goes longer than anyone else. But Watson says he doesn’t hit driver on the range when he’s warming up.

“I’m always going to hit it long, so I don’t ever practice that,” he said. “I practice the other stuff more than I do the driver.”

DIVOTS: Joe Steranka, chief executive of the PGA of America, was elected a PGA honorary member during the association’s annual meeting last week in Phoenix. … Jim Murray, the late sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times, was inducted into the Southern California Golf Association Hall of Fame. Others included longtime Bel-Air pro Eddie Merrins and George C. Thomas Jr., who the architect whose designs include Riviera and Bel-Air. … Ian Woosnam became the first player to win the Order of Merit in Europe on the regular and senior tours.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Bob Tway led the PGA Tour in actual scoring average (69.94) but finished at No. 132 on the money list and failed to earn his card.

FINAL WORD: “I feel like I could be a worldwide player and be able to make a name for myself in every country, not just the United States.” — Anthony Kim, on why he joined the European tour.

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