When all said and done, Sergio is just a poor excuse

DAVID SWANSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Sergio Garcia, teeing off during the first round, finished 15-over par for the tournament.
DAVID SWANSON / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Sergio Garcia, teeing off during the first round, finished 15-over par for the tournament.
Posted: June 18, 2013

THE SERGIO GARCIA Reclamation Project almost held it together.

Garcia began his week of penitence with a handshake and a handwritten note for his victim, Tiger Woods, on Monday. He followed on Tuesday with 22 minutes of candid and seemingly heartfelt comments of regret and remorse.

As he played practice rounds and tournament rounds, he ignored the odd "Fried Chicken!" catcall and the frequent "Tiger!" shout from the otherwise benign galleries at cozy Merion, where Philly fans stood as close as the out-of-bounds.

How cool was Sergio?

On No. 18 yesterday, he heard, "You [score] another eight?" and he walked over to the ropes to confront that witty woman . . . and handed her his extra golf glove.

Garcia came to know the OB boundaries well. He knocked a total of five tee shots out of bounds on Nos. 14 and 15, which he played at 16-over par, which meant he played the rest of the course at 1-under. He also played the final three holes, the course's toughest stretch, 1-over, which means he held it together on the course, too.

And then, with the project nearly finished, he collapsed into his true self.

The one who complained about noise in his backswing at The Players Championship; the one who, later, played a bigoted phrase in verbal jousting with the man who changed golf's face and finances.

The one who said he would invite his enemy, Tiger Woods, over for fried chicken.

Asked if his first week of U.S. competition had been especially difficult, Garcia snarled:

"What do you think? What do you think?"

Then he sulked away.

Same old Sergio.

All pretense of propriety evaporated, leaving no residue of restraint. The grind of the week, and of the weeks that preceded it, eroded his veneer. Sergio was back to being Sergio: petulant victim; wronged by the world; cheated by fate; bewildered that his sweet, entitled life would dare serve him bitter pills.

Garcia's words, actions and chances nearly led the story lines entering the U.S. Open, close behind Merion's suitability for an Open and just ahead of Tiger's quest for his 15th major championship.

Merion tucked her pins, tightened her fairways, raked her hairy rough vertical in the night. She played less than 7,000 yards each day but surrendered no scores under par. Justin Rose shot even-par in the final round and won at 1-over, his first major; good for him, but that tale lacks romance.

Tiger's tale never does.

Merion's greens befuddled Tiger all week, as soft as they were. Perhaps injured, Tiger dealt errant iron play and putted lousily in yet another major, and his 13-over total - 10-over on the weekend - helped him beat traffic out of the Main Line.

"The golf wasn't what I'd like to have it," Woods said.

He was not alone.

By yesterday, all of the talk and most of the hope centered on Superdad and birthday boy Phil Mickelson, who missed 2 practice days to fly home to San Diego for his daughter's school speech. A Father's Day win would have given Spielberg's best writers less than a week's work to polish a treatment. Mickelson's absence of an Open title and his record five second places, combined with the cancers in his family and his own arthritis, would have written the story for them.

But Mickelson pushed his drive on No. 18 left, and that was pretty much that. He foundered to 4-over in the final round, No. 2 again . . . but, judging by the galleries' reactions, No. 1 in the hearts of Philadelphia.

Could Rory McIlroy, from whom Tiger took the No. 1 ranking, find his form after claiming Nike citizenship? No; irrelevant at 14-over.

Could Adam Scott retain the form that won him the Masters and vaulted him to No. 3? Nope; he never shot better than 2-over, 15-over for the championship.

Could Matt Kuchar, No. 4 and the hottest golfer at the moment, really matter in a major? Nah; steadily 2-over and 3-over, he bowed out at plus-12.

Could Luke Donald, former No. 1, perpetual pop-gun driver but a short-game wizard, capitalize on what likely will give him his only chance to win a U.S. Open? He and fellow short-hitter Steve Stricker, 46 and semiretired, both had a jabber's chance, but both collapsed on the front nine and finished 6-over.

Could West Chester native Jim Furyk, at 43, finally play well enough in his hometown's backyard? He was cut on Friday at 16-over, double the cut line.

But, really, the course and the Spaniard made for riveting drama, the latter undone by the former on just two holes.

Garcia, renowned for his excuses, said his foot slipped when his tee shot went left on No. 14 on Thursday. On Saturday, he said his driver went too straight on two of the three consecutive out-of-bounds misfires on No. 15 that resulted in a sextuple-bogey 10; seis over par; the same number of pieces in KFC's best meal.

Asked why his scores were poor, Garcia snorted, "You obviously didn't watch my rounds."

That was incorrect, and he was evasive, rude.

Normal.

As it would happen, Garcia's worst experience on the two holes came not on the tee on Thursday or Saturday but rather on the green yesterday, when he ran a 12-foot par putt 2 feet past. He pushed the comebacker, and when it missed the entire hole, he heard, "Tiger!"

After the resulting 5-footer circled the hole and rimmed out and he tapped in for a four-putt triple-bogey, he heard, "How do you like Merion?"

What do you think?

DN Members Only : Sam Donnellon writes the same old story for Phil Mickelson.


On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

hayesm@phillynews.com

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