PARAMUS, N.J. - Sergio Garcia found himself thinking of the jetliner that crashed on takeoff in Madrid, Spain and the 153 lives lost. So the Spaniard fixed a black ribbon to his hat as he took the golf course.
Hunter Mahan found himself thinking of the Ryder Cup Matches even after he shot a 9-under 62 that left him four shots clear of the field - mostly because everyone kept asking him about the Ryder Cup.
Anthony Kim found himself thinking of adding a beekeeper to his entourage. Because that's what happens when you're fending off bee attacks between swings, wondering if Winnie the Pooh unknowingly got his honey-smeared paws into your bag.
The first event of the second FedEx Cup is not exactly beginning with great obsession over those Cup point standings on which PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem pays people to fixate. Instead, this Barclays tournament at Ridgewood Country Club is playing out as a contrast between tragic, future and funny events.
It's why Garcia gets questioned more about Spanair Flight JK5022 than his first round 1-under 70.
"Not that I know of," Garcia said when asked if he knew anyone on the plane. "I just know what's happened. I don't know exactly who was in it. It doesn't matter, even if you don't know anybody, it's something that you don't want to happen. It's going to be very tough for the families and everybody around it.
"I wear it (the black ribbon) because I feel like I want to wear it and I should wear it for the families and all the people that died."
Of course, then Garcia got asked more questions about Spanish tennis superstar Rafael Nadal than he was asked about the plane crash. Nadal is already in New York, staying across the river in Manhattan in preparation for next week's U.S. Open and a big buzz among the European media is whether he'll show up to watch buddy Sergio golf. For the record, Garcia does not think so.
It's that type of golf tournament - one where everyone seems to be looking for something to talk about besides just the FedEx Cup. With Mahan sitting at nine under, four shots ahead of Englishman Paul Casey and five strokes clear of five no names at 4-under (Bo Van Pelt, Kevin Streelman, Mathew Goggin, Charley Hoffman and Dudley Hart), none of who are even in the top 65 in the FedEx Cup point standings, the first assumption might be that this wandering focus is due to the prospect of a blowout.
Especially with Adam Scott and Steve Stricker the closest big names at 3-under and Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Rory Sabbatini and Garcia all sitting all the way back at 1-under.
No one expects this A.W. Tillinghast course to yield crazy, crazy low numbers though and Mahan's own personal history suggests the leaderboard will quickly tighten over the weekend.
"I'd be surprised if there aren't a bunch of guys all right there bunched up on Sunday," said Kenny Perry, who put up a 2-under 69 in his first round.
Kim - the young two-time winner who gets asked about trying to be the Tour's next breakout crossover star after Tiger Woods so often that he has a rote answer - just hopes that Northern New Jersey's bees find a different target by Sunday.
One bee stung Kim early in his first round. Then, a few holes later, Kim found two more bees buzzing in his pants pocket.
"It was rough out there," said Kim, who was wearing a stripped yellow shirt. "When the bees are attacking you ... I mean the course is tough enough, but when the bees start getting you, you're in trouble."
Playing his go-for-it style, Kim found his score even more effected by Ridgewood's hulking oak trees. Many of which, Kim got a backside view of.
"One of the toughest rounds I've ever played," Kim said. "Every hole, it seemed like I was behind 18 trees."
He still managed a 1-under 70 that gives him a chance to make a weekend move.
The highest score at Ridgewood in the first round was a 78 - and there were only two of those. The FedEx Cup is not trying to remind anyone of a major as far as grueling course conditions. While Ridgewood's rough is thick in parts, it can be hit out of. And for those finding fairways with the driver, it's almost a shooting gallery despite the small and sometimes deceptive Tillinghast greens.
"Well, it's definitely not that easy," Mahan argued after his eight-birdie, one-eagle, one-bogey round. "It's perfect conditions. You've got great weather. The course is in perfect shape right now."
What Mahan really hasn't found easy is convincing everyone that he yearns to be a wildcard pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup - even after he ripped the event as being nothing more than a blatant money maker for the PGA of America a few weeks ago. He's still trying though.
"I would love to be a pick," Mahan said. "But I have to earn it too."
Earning a win against one of the better fields in a tour event this year would be a step that U.S. Captain Paul Azinger could not ignore. But it's anything but necessary. Mickelson is already talking like Mahan's 62 put him on the team.
"My Ryder Cup partner Kenny Perry played well," said Mickelson, who will play with Perry and Padraig Harrington again this afternoon in the threesome with the most FedEx Cup points coming in. "I think things are shaping up. With Hunter doing what he did (Thursday), things are looking good."
Mickelson's talking Ryder Cup, of course. Who's going to talk that other Cup anyway? Think Nadal will surprise show?
"He told me that he went to a musical," Garcia said in relaying Nadal's New York activities so far. "And fell asleep in the middle of it."
August 22, 2008
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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