Sergio Garcia

Austin Country Club has not been kind to those returning to the familiar Austin grounds for the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play. Not a single former Longhorn made it out of group play on Thursday, leaving Texas fans and Austinites alike questioning who they should root for in the Round of 16.

An answer to this question for many was last year’s Masters champion: Sergio Garcia.

Garcia married former Texas golfer Angela Akins last year. Akins was originally from Marble Falls, Texas, before continuing her golf career at TCU and Texas. She used to work as a reporter for Golf Channel.  

Akins recently gave birth to the couple’s first child on March 14, and the couple even gave the baby girl an Augusta National themed name: Azalea.

Since his marriage, Garcia seems to have become one of the fan favorites here in Austin. He saw a sizeable following all week long, ultimately seeing his gallery grow to one of the largest on the course during the Round of 16.

“It's good fun,” Garcia said. “Obviously my wife Angela is from here. Our daughter was born here. Her family is a big Longhorns family, so we have good connections, strong connections with Austin and UT, and I’ve always enjoyed it.”

Echoes of “Hook em’ Horns” could be heard from those wearing burnt orange in the crowd, with the Spaniard always giving a nod or wave to the common Longhorn cheer. Garcia even seemed to flash the “horns up” sign on one hole to please a cheering Texas fan and display his newfound affection for Texas sports.

“I’ve enjoyed watching their football games and maybe a couple of basketball games and stuff,” Garcia said. “And I got to practice soccer with the women’s team a couple of times. It’s good fun”

Garcia flashed some of his best golf during group play of the tournament, which took place from Wednesday through Friday. The Spaniard won all three on his group play matches in taking down the likes of Shubhankar Sharma, Dylan Frittelli and Xander Schauffele.

In each of his group play rounds, Garcia battled back after being down the majority of the match, consistently meeting the challenge and closing the gap to end group play undefeated.

“No, don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy that, I’d rather be 2- or 3-up on the front and play the back like I’ve been playing it, and win 5-4, but unfortunately I didn't’ manage to do it all week,” said Garcia. “And you keep doing that, eventually things don’t go exactly like you planned.”

Alas, the makeshift Austinite did not fare well on the fourth day of play at Austin Country Club.

Garcia found himself paired up against Kyle Stanley in the Round of 16 on Saturday. This would be the matchup for Garcia that finally did not go as he had planned.

Garcia took an early 1-up lead on the first hole that he later relinquished on the third after a birdie by Stanley. Two holes later, a bogey on the fifth hole by Garcia would give a 1-up lead to Stanley.

Garcia would not muster up a comeback to recover from the deficit this time.

Stanley led the rest of the match until finally taking a 3-1 victory over Garcia with a deciding birdie on the 17th hole.

Garcia only managed three birdies for the round, compared to Stanley’s six. He also suffered three bogeys, two of which lost him the respective holes.

After being eliminated from play here in Austin, Garcia will have his mind set on defending his Masters title in two weeks at Augusta National. Garcia’s 2017 Masters title was his first major of his career.

“It’s exciting,” Garcia said. “Obviously when we get there, it’s going to be interesting to see how we feel and everything, but it is definitely exciting.”

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

With the sun beginning to set in the background, Dylan Frittelli set up on the far left end of the practice range at Austin Country Club in the early evening on Thursday. The 27-year-old former Longhorn hit balls as his swing coach, Chuck Cook, kept a watchful eye.

The past two days at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play hadn’t been exactly what Frittelli desired. He had lost his first two matches, effectively eliminating him from advancing to the knockout round, which begins Saturday.

But Frittelli still had a smile on his face and was upbeat as he beat balls into the range.

“There’s a lot to reflect on,” Frittelli said. “A lot of good stuff, in with a few bad things. I’m still gonna look favorably over the last two days.”

Frittelli had a much different view of this tournament last year. At the time the Johannesburg, South Africa, native was ranked 190th in the world. Only the top 64 in the world qualify for the event. But Frittelli still attended last year’s tournament as a spectator.

This year, though, after two wins in 2017 on the European Tour, he’s right where he expected to be — inside the ropes — a place few thought possible.

“I mean I told a lot of people — I know tons of people. I was running into them. I said I'll be here next year. I'll be playing in this tournament,” Frittelli said in his Monday press conference. “People looked at me: ‘You're 190 in the world, that's hard to get to 64.’ It was a goal I set myself. I kept on telling people, and self affirmation. The more I told myself, the more I started to believe it.”

After losing to world No. 24 Xander Schauffele, 1 down, on Wednesday, Frittelli needed a win on Thursday to stay alive in group play. His opponent was a familiar face — Sergio Garcia, last year’s Masters champion, and someone who Frittelli befriended over a year ago.

“Yes, we are friends, but we are both trying our hardest to beat each other,” Garcia said. “Obviously it's always a little bit more enjoyable when you are good friends with your opponent.”

The crowd on Thursday seemed to be pulling for both players equally — it would’ve been a hard decision one way or the other. Frittelli, while not a big name in professional golf, helped deliver the Longhorns a national championship in 2012. A guy named Jordan Spieth was Frittelli’s teammate at Texas.

“I had lots of fans out there. It was awesome,” Frittelli said. “Dream come true for me.”

Garcia, meanwhile, has recently become a popular face within the Austin golf scene. Last summer, he married former UT golfer Angela Atkins. The two just had their first baby last week.

On Thursday, it was about as Longhorn of a crowd as it gets. UT men’s golf coach John Fields and UT women’s soccer coach Angela Kelly followed the match. Multiple current UT golfers followed as well, including Scottie Scheffler and the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, Sophia Schubert.

And then of course, there was Matthew McConaughey, who walked inside the ropes.

“I showed the ‘Hook ‘em’ to him, and Matthew responded with a casual ‘Hook ‘em,’” Frittelli said.

Frittelli built a 2-up lead over Garcia on the front nine but then faltered on the back. Garcia made birdies at the par-4 10th and par-5 12th to square the match. Frittelli hit each of his approach shots in the water on the short par-4 13th and the par-4 14th, and he quickly found himself 2 down to Garcia.

“I played really well through that front nine. And I guess that drive from the ninth green over to the 10th tee kind of just sucked all the life out of me,” Frittelli said. “I didn’t seem to have anything on the back nine.”

Frittelli made a crucial par save at the par-4 15th, birdied the par-5 16th and made a critical 7-footer for par at the par-3 17th to keep the match alive. He was 1 down to Garcia when he arrived at the par-4 18th. Garcia drove the green and two-putted for birdie, while Frittelli made par, giving the Spaniard a 2-up win.

“I love playing with him. He’s a great guy,” said Frittelli, who’s played multiple rounds in Austin with Garcia before. “He’s one of the best players in the history of the game.”

Frittelli has one more match left in Austin. He plays India’s Shubhankar Sharma on Friday at 11:31 a.m.

“Hopefully I can just pull ahead and win early tomorrow,” Frittelli said. “My goal is to beat the traffic on 360 — finish in three hours and hopefully get out of here before the traffic starts.”

Photo Credit: Trent Daeschner | Daily Texan Staff

Sergio Garcia is widely regarded as one of the best golfers in the world. He’s been touring professionally since 1999 and has 10 PGA Tour wins under his belt. But on Thursday, the reigning Masters champion found his ball in an unusual lie — atop a riverboat afloat Lake Austin.

In anticipation of next month’s World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, Austin Country Club, which sits adjacent to Lake Austin, hosted a tournament media day featuring Garcia and golf legend Ben Crenshaw.

Crenshaw, an Austin native and former Longhorn, won three individual national titles during his time on the 40 Acres in the early 1970s, before going on to win the Masters in 1984 and 1995.

On Thursday morning, Garcia and Crenshaw participated in a 13th Hole Challenge at Austin Country Club. Along with members of several local youth foundations in attendance, they attempted to land their shots on the 13th hole, while hitting from atop a vessel floating in the lake 171 yards away from the green.

The purpose of the event was to raise money for the five benefiting charity organizations that participated. If someone hit a hole-in-one, the winning organization would be awarded $1 million.

No aces were hit, though. But still, each foundation came away with $1,000, and people had the opportunity to meet two world-class golfers.

Incidentally, it turns out that Garcia and Crenshaw have more in common than their green jackets. It is well known that the latter’s Texas roots run deep. Yet Garcia, despite being born and raised in Eastern Spain, also became an adopted member of the Longhorn family last summer when he tied the knot with former UT women’s golfer Angela Akins.

As for Garcia himself, the honorary Longhorn will participate in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, which begins March 21.

Election records from around Texas indicate that early voting for the 2010 midterm election is up sharply in several Rio Grande Valley counties as well as key urban areas throughout the state when compared to 2006.

During the first eight days of early voting, turnout in Hidalgo County is almost triple what it was during 2006 midterm election. Webb County saw turnout almost double when compared to 2006. Democrats in Webb County, which contains the city of Laredo, believe multiple factors have contributed to the dramatic increase in voter turnout.

“Webb County is unique in the Valley because we moved our municipal elections and school district elections up to November instead of having them all separate during various points of the summer,” said Sergio Garcia, chairman of the Webb County Democratic Party.

He said turnout for the general elections in Novembers past had been depressed because the partisan races are decided in the Democratic primaries, which happen in the spring.

“In Webb County, not only has [White] been here numerous times, they have invested a lot of money and resources into running a well-tuned, highly technological get-out-the-vote effort,” Garcia said. “We have block-walked [almost] all the precincts in the county, and that’s new. It has been truly revolutionary and very effective.”

He said a confluence of factors — closely contested local races, moving municipal elections from the summer to Election Day in November — were all pushing turnout significantly higher.

“Local races are driving increased voter turnout in the Valley,” said Bob Stein, a polling expert and political science professor at Rice University. “[Those] races are important in the Valley because they provide services.”

Major urban areas around Texas have also seen increases in voter turnout.

“The big urban counties, led by Harris at 210 percent over 2006, are uniformly up by about 65 percent, which is good for White,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. “But so are the suburban counties Collin, Denton, Fort Bend and Williamson, where Perry should run strong.”

With the latest polls showing White down by eight to 11 points, experts doubt an increased turnout of groups that lean Democratic will be enough for him to win the election.

“Everybody is waiting for the inevitable,” Stein said. “The increased turnout will help Bill White, but it won’t win him the election.”