Garcia battles back from bad drives and hecklers

Sergio Garcia blows on his putter after missing his par putt on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2013 U.S. Open at the Merion Golf Club East Course on Thursday, June 13, 2013. ( Yong Kim / Staff Photographer )
Sergio Garcia blows on his putter after missing his par putt on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2013 U.S. Open at the Merion Golf Club East Course on Thursday, June 13, 2013. ( Yong Kim / Staff Photographer )
Posted: June 14, 2013

Often throughout a 2013 U.S. Open round that was as wildly erratic as a few tee shots, Sergio Garcia had difficulties keeping things in bounds.

It was golf balls that hooked onto Golf House Road on successive holes and led to double- and quadruple-bogeys. And at other times, it was the now-familiar taunts of fans.

Whatever the comments directed at him by the Merion Golf Club gallery were, Garcia downplayed them after rallying to salvage a 3-over round of 73, 6 shots behind leader Phil Mickelson.

"I think there were a couple here and there," Garcia said when asked about the remarks, which one reporter characterized as "wisecracks."

"But I thought the people were very nice for the whole day. I think that almost all of them were behind me and that was nice to see."

During the Golf Channel's coverage, announcer Dan Hicks noted that the Spanish golfer "was being heckled." Hicks said policemen who accompanied Garcia's threesome - and most others Thursday - had offered to remove the offenders. Garcia told them not to bother.

"It would just make things worse," Hicks quoted Garcia as saying.

Garcia has been a U.S. Open target before. In the final round of the 2012 event at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, two men loudly heckling him were ejected.

But the recent "fried chicken" comments he directed at Tiger Woods - and for which he has since apologized - undoubtedly have raised his profile as the international golfer American fans most like to deride.

Colin Montgomerie, the Scotsman who once held that title, predicted to an Irish newspaper this week that his former Ryder Cup teammate would be jeered in Philadelphia.

"Remember it's only a few hours from New York," Montgomerie said. "It's a lively crowd and I think he could well be booed."

No one can measure, of course, the remarks' impact on Garcia's round. His scorecard, however, did end up looking like something by Jackson Pollock.

In addition to the double bogey at 14 and the quadruple at 15, Garcia had three more bogeys, four birdies, and an eagle. That eagle on the second hole was the only one on either of Merion's par-5s on the rain-interrupted day. There were two on the short par-4 tenth.

But it was two tee balls early in his morning nine that appeared to guarantee Garcia an early exit from this championship.

Following the morning's lengthy delay, Garcia lost his footing on the 14th tee and the resulting pull-hook with his 3-wood careened through a group of spectators and onto Golf House Road.

"I hit another good 3-wood, a 7-iron to about 16 feet, and managed to two-putt for my par - sorry, par with the second ball."

On 15, where the out-of-bounds looms uncomfortably close, he took another healthy swing with the 3-wood and his shot went even further left.

"Just a terrible shot," he said. "The out of bounds is close, but if you hit a bad shot, even if it's far away, you're going to find it."

After that errant shot, Garcia hit another 3-wood into the wet fairway.

"Feeling down a little bit, I guess, I didn't hit the best of irons. Then I thinned it on the green from the bunker, hit a great chip [and two-putted for an 8]," Garcia said.

That 6-over total on just two holes, coupled with a bogey at 18, put him 7-over after just eight holes. But he played his back - holes 2 through 10 - 4-under, a stretch initiated by the eagle at the second and capped by a birdie on the par-four 10th.

On No. 2, his second shot from 272 yards away landed 16 feet from the pin and he holed the putt.

"I guess I was just making my week a little tougher," Garcia said of his adventures at 14 and 15. "But I tried to battle as much as I could coming in and I was able to shoot a decent score."


Contact Frank Fitzpatrick at ffitzpatrick@phillynewscom. Follow on Twitter @philafitz

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