British Open loss is still not Sergio's fault

Posted: August 09, 2007

TULSA, OKLA. – When last we heard from Sergio Garcia, he was trying to explain how he'd somehow managed to lose last month's British Open at Carnoustie by one in a four-hole playoff with Padraig Harrington, without ever hitting a bad shot.

Honest.

About the only thing missing from his conspiracy theory was a grassy knoll.

The entire planet was against him, the 27-year-old Spaniard suggested. What that means for sure, only he knows. What he did make perfectly clear was that he never gets a break. Conveniently forgetting, of course, the fact that he held a three-stroke lead after three rounds. Over Steve Stricker, not Tiger Woods. Or that everyone else was at least six back. Or that he closed with a 2-over-par 73 when just about everyone else on the leaderboard was posting scores in the high 60s. Might have had something to do with all of those 10-footish putts he missed. You know, the ones he always makes in Ryder Cups.

Anyway, that was his story. And, apparently, he's sticking to it.

Yesterday at Southern Hills Country Club, where the final major of the season tees off this morning, Garcia naturally was asked about his comments. Specifically, whether he cared to amend them. But he wasn't seeking any mulligans.

"Yeah, I was emotional," he said. "I opened myself to you guys and said what I felt. That's pretty much it.

"I didn't want to take anything out of Padraig winning the Open. I felt like I played well enough to win and unfortunately it didn't happen. Definitely, if a couple breaks would have gone my way, it would have been a different story."

In other words, just Sergio being Sergio. Which, when he was 19, was kind of huggable. But he's not a kid anymore. Whether he thinks so or not, he came off sounding like a whiner, a bad loser. Hey, nobody wants to finish second, especially when you are considered one of the best players, or perhaps the best, never to have won a major.

Still, there's a right way to handle the situation. Most folks felt he chose wrongly.

When asked if, after reflecting, he would have done anything differently that day, Sergio said: "No. Well, yes. I would have tried to hit that putt on 18 a little bit further out [to the right]. That's pretty much it"

The putt, to save par from 10 feet (after he'd put his approach in a bunker), hit the left edge of the cup and spun out. Had it dropped, the Claret Jug would have been his. Instead, he had to play some more golf. As Tom Kite observed after narrowly missing a putt on the 72nd hole at the 1986 Masters that would have tied him with Jack Nicklaus: "I made the putt. It just didn't go in."

Whatever.

Garcia insists he's putting the experience behind him.

"I guess it wasn't easy the first week after, a couple of days after," he said. "But you get over it. I played a bit of tennis and just went to the beach, just to have fun, just to enjoy, kind of get a little away from golf. With my friends, I managed to get through it. Just tried to get all the positives out of it, and there were a lot of positives. I had a lot of nice calls from friends and family.

"Then I started practicing, trying to get ready for [the WGC] Bridgestone [Invitational] last week . . . [I'm] hoping I can get myself as good of a chance as I gave myself in Carnoustie."

Garcia tied for 20th at Bridgestone, but did shoot 67 on Sunday. His best finish in this major was his memorable runner-up to Tiger Woods in his 1999 PGA debut at Medinah. He tied for third last year, six behind Tiger, also at Medinah. When the U.S. Open was held here in 2001, Garcia tied for 12th. But he was right in the hunt heading into the last 18 holes.

"Unfortunately, I didn't play better on Sunday," he said. "But hopefully, I can keep playing the way I've been playing. I didn't win the British Open. Padraig did, and he deserved it. But I was the only one that had the winning putt in regulation. And to me, that means a lot. It was great to be up in the lead all week long. I think I learned a lot from it. I hit a great putt. Unfortunately it didn't go in.

"I played good last week. I had a couple of bad holes here and there. Other than that, it was good to get back into competition."

Garcia should win majors. Plural. He's simply too talented, and too young. But in this goofy sport, there are no absolutes. Just ask Colin Montgomerie.

"It's just a matter of time [for me]," Garcia insisted. "I don't have a doubt that it will eventually happen. I think [the week at Carnoustie] is really going to help me in the future, to be a lot more calm within myself when I get in that position.

"I should have won at least more than one by now. The only thing I can do is keep giving myself chances. I was very confident with myself, very confident with my game. I stuck to my game plan. I felt that was the best plan for me. That's what got me to a winning position . . .

"[My dad] said I played well. He almost had tears in his eyes. But he told me, 'You did all you could. You did everything right. Unfortunately it just wasn't meant to happen.' The end of the day, that's all you can really do."

If he'd won, he would have been fielding a different set of questions this week. But he didn't.

"That's the beauty of the game," he said. "The guy that finishes second is always the first loser, I guess. So it's hard sometimes. I hope that I have the winning putt here again. Whatever happens, at least if I'm in that position again, I'll be pretty happy with it."

For whatever reason he was asked if he'd rather be ahead by one or five walking to the 72nd hole this time. Shockingly, he went with the under.

"I'd rather be ahead by eight," he shot back, with a semigrin. "You know what, right now I would take leading the tournament by one on the [last] hole. If the situation is different, and I'm winning by six, I'm not going to say no. I'm not going to make a 10 on 17 to be leading by one on 18."

Now that would make for some story. Wouldn't you like to ask the first question after that? *

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