Heres a young man who is only 25 years old. Hes already won six times, including a victory last week at the Booz Allen Classic at Congressional. In 1999 he pushed Tiger Woods to the absolute limit at the PGA Championship before finally being relegated to second place. He stands No. 6 in the world as the U.S. Open readies for play.
On the other hand, this is his sixth year as a professional. He isnt mentioned nearly as much as a possible winner in the majors as he was the first three years of his career. Hes been passed on the expectation list by Retief Goosen, Chris DiMarco, even by Phil Mickelson. And his putting, which was better than average his first three years, has been abysmal his last three.
If I had been sitting there in 99 and you had come to me and said, OK, in 6 years time, you are going to accomplish this ' I would have been happy, of course. To be the sixth player in the world, playing quite well, winning tournaments all over the world ' of course I would have liked to win a major by now, but its not something that bothers me.
I definitely would have been happy if you had told me the way it would have been six years ago (in the future.) Its just a matter of getting better.
That attitude has frequently been criticized by some who say Garcia lacks the fire to be a major champion. And that criticism is entirely wrong, he asserts.
I know, and Ive always said, that I would love to (win a major) ' and I definitely have had my chances. I definitely did.
But its not something that bothers me that much at the moment. Fortunately, Im only 25. So if injuries and everything go all right, I should have a lot of time to win a major in the near future.
Still, Garcia understands his career has come in stops and starts, zooming to the highest of highs, crashing down to the lowest of lows. Look what has happened just since the Masters, the first major of the year. He missed the cut in that one. He rebounded to play a pretty good tournament at Wachovia, losing in a playoff. He was so-so in the Nelson, finishing in a tie for 35th. He slipped again at Colonial, missing the cut. But last week, he soared to victory.
When you come out, of course you never know how its gonna go, he confessed. You always think the best and just pray youre gonna do well.
Im not gonna lie to you, as soon as I turned pro in 1999, my goal was to keep my card in Europe, and if I could in America. I managed to do that and win a couple of tournaments (here in the U.S.) And from then on, after winning a couple of tournaments ' unfortunately I was hoping it was going to keep going that way.
Since Mickelson broke through at the Masters last year at the age of 33, the mantel of best player to have never won a major has been passed along ' by many ' to Garcia. That title, to many, is infuriating. To Garcia, its a title of respect ' though he certainly doesnt want to keep it forever.
I really take it as a compliment, he said. You know, I take the good part of it ' if youre telling me Im the best player to never win a major, it means that I certainly am a good player.
I know what I can do, but it certainly is nice to be recognized. But, as I said, Ive just got to wait for it, Ive just got to give it time. The harder you try to force it and make it happen, the harder it is. So Ive just got to let it happen.
It has been difficult for him, however, he concedes. It almost seems as though the excellence he exhibited at age 19, 20, 21 and 22 was too much. The almost at the PGA Championship in 99, a big victory at Ben Hogans old course, Colonial, in 2001, a win against the best of the tour in the 2002 Mercedes Championships, a couple of wins at Westchester was it too easy too soon?
The last two years I may have tried too hard, he conceded, put on so much pressure and expecting to do well and expecting to have a chance of winning. I know that if I just go out there and play my own game, I am going to have a chance. Because Ive showed it ' Ive showed that I have enough good enough game to have a chance of winning.
Unfortunately, that futile effort has exhibited itself too often with the putter, where he currently languishes in 151st place on the tour rankings.
Unfortunately, for the past, want to say, three years, it's been my downside, he said. The week where I putt more or less OK and I have a chance of winning or I win but some of the weeks it feels like I can't make putts.
Garcia has the flair, and the variety of shots, to make it happen. And if it happens to be a week when the putter is working, it COULD happen. In 2000, it seemed so close. It 2005, it really doesnt. But one good week, one strong major, and it will all come back again.
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