Confident Garcia has more swagger than waggle
NORTON - Reputations are tough to shake.
Eyeing Sergio Garcia as he approached the eighth green at TPC Boston yesterday, one fan said to his companion, “If he wiggles that club one more time . . .’’
A valid comment, for sure - nine years ago.
That Sergio Garcia doesn’t exist anymore. That annoying wiggle-waggling before taking a shot - it could get into the 20s - pretty much peaked at Bethpage Black in the 2002 US Open.
He was 22 then, in search of something in his game. He found whatever he was looking for well enough to win seven times in America and 11 times internationally over the next six years. He talked big talk, saying he wanted to become the first person to be the leading money winner on both the PGA and European tours in the same year. The Links Gods apparently disapproved of such talk. He hasn’t won since.
But he is Sergio Garcia, and the name still matters. From the time he came bounding into our consciousness as a brash 19-year-old who dared to think he could outplay Tiger Woods, finishing second by a stroke at Medinah in the 1999 PGA, he has been a compelling figure in the game. He may not have won in three years, but people always expect something good to happen. Or I do, anyway.
And right now he is in the hunt here at the
A year ago, things weren’t so good. Frustrated with his play, he took the occasion of missing the cut in the PGA to announce a two-month break from competitive golf. The year 2010 will not get much time on the Sergio Garcia Career Highlight Film. He had just one top 10 finish in 15 starts on the PGA Tour.
He didn’t come here as the hottest player on the planet, either, with three top 10s in 14 starts. But two of those came in majors (a seventh in the US Open and a ninth in the British Open). That had to mean something.
At any rate, he arrived here feeling pretty good about himself, a lot better, for sure, than he did a year ago. He opened with a 71 Friday, a round he says just missed being very good, and he followed that with a seven-birdie, one-bogey 65 that put a definite spring in his step.
It has been an interesting week for the 31-year-old Spaniard, who made a few headlines when he went through a practice session with the New England Revolution.
“That’s not the first time I’ve practiced with a professional team,’’ he pointed out.
It was pointed out to him that the Revs are hanging around the cellar and could use a bit of help.
“Skill-wise, I might fit,’’ he decided. “But fitness-wise, I couldn’t. I can’t run with those guys. I might last 30 or 40 minutes, but that’s it.’’
So he’s planning on keeping the day job, the one he began training for when he was 3 years old, for a few more decades. His career may lack the cachet of a major, but he has played this game well enough to earn more than $27 million in America alone, in addition to the euros and other currencies he has picked up in his travels across the globe. And at 31 he will have many more opportunities to enhance what is already a brilliant Ryder Cup résumé.
Right now the idea is to win a tournament here, and if he can’t do that, play well enough to keep advancing in the FedExCup competition. He came here at No. 53, and sooner or later he has to get himself into the top 30 if he wishes to keep playing till the end.
He’ll do that if he plays the way he did yesterday, when, starting on the back nine, he had birdies on 11, 14, 16, 17, 18, 1, and 5. The one regrettable stumble came on 6. He had just stuck an 8-iron to within one more ball revolution of becoming an eagle on No. 5 when he pulled his drive on the 465-yard, par-4 sixth into the left rough.
“I was trying to hit a low power drive with a little bit of a cut and I pulled it,’’ he explained.
His second shot was short, to the left and in some tough stuff, and he actually did well to salvage a bogey. He parred in from there, depositing a 7-footer in the center of the cup on finishing hole No. 9 to keep himself within four strokes of the leaders.
Let’s just say he wasn’t complaining.
The difference between his opening 71 and yesterday’s 6-under round? What do you think?
“The putts,’’ he said. “I didn’t really play too differently, but yesterday the putts lipped out and today they went in. But I was still a little bit unfortunate. I left some good birdie opportunities out there on the back nine.’’
One thing he made pretty clear is that whatever was holding him back last year is no longer an issue.
“My confidence is good,’’ he said.
Asked if he thought his game was well-suited to this particular course, he said, “If I play my game, any course suits my game.
“I’m a good ball-striker, and I’ve been driving pretty well, although I hit a few wayward drives today. But everything is very positive.
“I think I’ve played well enough that I deserve to win already. But it’s a process, and I’m continuing to get better.’’
He’s no longer a kid, and he doesn’t waggle and he still has plenty of game. He’s Sergio Garcia, and he has many more years to take care of unfinished business.
Don’t ever forget about him. It may very well be that you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.