Sergio Garcia making up ground after rough start


Sergio Garcia making up ground after rough start

ARDMORE, Pa. -- He said he was unsure how he would play after everything that's happened in the last month.

But there's no way he saw a double and a quad coming. Especially back to back.

Fresh off his feud with Tiger Woods and multiple apologies for his fried chicken remarks (see story), Sergio Garcia got off to a horrid start Thursday at the U.S. Open, making a double bogey on 14 and a quadruple bogey on 15, his third and fourth holes of the day.

There are entirely average amateurs who don't do that. What happened?

"Well, 14, [my foot] slipped. I hit a 3‑wood off the tee, slipped, obviously hit it duck hook -- like a pull hook -- and went out of bounds," Garcia said. "Hit another, good 3‑wood, 7‑iron to about 16 feet and managed to 2‑putt for par -- or, well, sorry, par with the second ball.

"Then on [15], I hit just a terrible tee shot with 3‑wood, pulled it left and hit it out of bounds. And then I hit a good, decent second one to the fairway feeling down a little bit, I guess. Didn't hit the best of irons. Then, I thinned it on the green from the bunker. Hit a great chip, actually a very, very good chip from the lie I had. And unfortunately I couldn't make my [putt] for seven."

At 6-over through just five holes, and then 7-over through eighth holes, it looked as if Garcia had already played his way out of the tournament.

But he steadied himself, playing the remainder of his round at minus-4, to close with a 3-over-par 73. He sits seven shots behind Luke Donald, who is the overnight leader in the clubhouse after Round 1 was suspended because of darkness (see story).

The turnaround started with a birdie at one that led to an eagle at two. He'd make two more birdies and only one more bogey the rest of the way in.

"The eagle on two helped a lot," Garcia said. "I hit a really good drive, and I hit a 3‑wood, the wind was a little bit into the left, from 272, and probably hit it about, I want to say, about 16 feet or so. And then a little right‑to‑left putt."

The crowd let out a roar for the eagle, which Garcia said he appreciated. Coming into the week, he was unsure how he would be greeted by the galleries after his dust up with Woods and ensuing comments.

Garcia was asked if he heard any wisecracks from the fans during his round, a question which prompted the Spaniard to cock his head and repeat "wisecracks?"

Yeah, like heckling.

"No," he responded, now sort of aware of what a 'wisecrack' is. "I think there were a couple here and there. But there was ‑‑ I felt the people were very nice for the whole day. I think that they almost all of them were behind me and that was nice to see."

Whether fans will be seeing Garcia on Saturday and Sunday depends how he fares in Round 2. Garcia is currently in a tie for 78th at plus-3. The top 60 and ties make the cut. The 10-shot rule, that used to keep everyone within at least 10 shots of the lead around for the weekend, is no longer in practice.

That could prove a tough break since Garcia actually played pretty well Thursday -- other than those two bad holes.

"Yeah, unfortunately two really bad holes. But it's the way it is. The U.S. Open doesn't give you much room," he said.

"I guess I was just making my week a little bit tougher, but I tried to battle as much as I could coming in. I was able to shoot a decent score after being 7‑over through eight [holes]. I guess."

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular-season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot, it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Sixers head coach Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as the big man liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 minutes and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fade away jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guy’s first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuawon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).