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Transitions Championship marks Sergio Garcia's return to PGA Tour

Upbeat Garcia

PALM HARBOR — This week at the Transitions Championship, Sergio Garcia is making his first U.S. appearance since the PGA Championship in August. Garcia, who hasn't won since fall 2008 on the European Tour, took 10 weeks off after the PGA, saying he needed a break from golf.

He has played six tournaments since his break, all in Europe. Garcia said he comes to Palm Harbor with his batteries recharged.

"I definitely feel like I want to be out there," he said. "That always helps. I can do better but at least if you're looking forward to it, it helps."

Garcia has won 20 times, seven of those on the PGA Tour, including the 2008 Players Championship. But his game has faded of late, which had dampened some of his excitement. "When you've been pretty much in the top 10 in the world rankings it's a little bit tougher to swallow, I guess," he said.

Garcia, 30, said he chose to make his 2011 U.S. debut at Innisbrook because of the tournament. "I have always liked this course," he said. "I think it's a great tournament, a very good, very challenging course. It's always been nice, and Florida is usually good weather."

Battered champ

Michael Bradley is a little tired, both mentally and physically, and though he'd probably rather be in Puerto Rico, after that he will take Palm Harbor. For the second time in three years, Bradley won last week's Puerto Rico Open. "I wish the tour was there every week," he said.

Bradley, 44, grew up in Brandon. His father was the head pro at Buckhorn Springs Golf Club from 1983-91. He lives in Lithia now and calls Bloomingdale Golfers Club his home course.

He feels a little extra pressure playing in front of family and friends. "I'm kind of a pleasing person, and I want to play well for them more than for myself," he said. "That's probably not good, but that's just me."

Deja vu

Jim Furyk was not playing well before last year's Transitions Championship. He ended up winning the event and having the best year of his career. He is not playing well again this year. Furyk has only one top 10 finish in six tournaments, which has him scratching his head.

"The start really isn't much different than last year," Furyk said. "It's obviously disappointing that I haven't been playing well. I'm a little baffled by it myself."

Woods to Bay Hill

Tiger Woods announced he will play the Arnold Palmer Invitational next week at Bay Hill in Orlando. Woods is a six-time winner at Bay Hill, including one stretch of four straight victories. He last won in 2009 with a birdie on the final hole, but did not defend his title last year while coping with the crisis in his personal life. He told ESPN that he believes he can still be the No. 1 player in the world. "When I get my swing dialed in?" Woods said, smiling in an interview.

Et cetera

Jeff Klauk, who says he is ill, and Fred Funk (chest cartilage issue) withdrew from the Transitions Championship. They are replaced by Richard S. Johnson and former UF golfer Billy Horschel. … Geoff Ogilvy's group won the Wednesday pro-am with 13-under 58. … Former Braves pitcher John Smoltz accepted a sponsor's exemption for the Nationwide Tour's South Georgia Classic in Valdosta next month.

Rodney Page, Times staff writer; Times wires

Group of the day

If you're looking for a marquee group to follow today, one of the best looks to be Mark Wilson, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh. Wilson has won twice this year, and Furyk and Singh are past champions. They start on the first tee at 1:33 p.m.

Quote of the day

"I was just tired of being miserable on the golf course."

Jim Furyk, right, on his change of attitude before the 2010 season, which turned out to be the best of his career

Number of the day

7 Past champions in this week's Transitions Championship. They account for the last nine titles. K.J. Choi won in 2002 and 2006, and Retief Goosen in 2003 and 2009.

Transitions Championship marks Sergio Garcia's return to PGA Tour 03/16/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 10:26pm]
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