CROMWELL, Conn – It’s been a rough week for Sergio Garcia.
No, not his return to the Travelers Championship after a five-year hiatus. Not his 16 birdies in three rounds so far, nor his scores of 65-69-65. And certainly not his opportunity for a first PGA Tour title in nearly two full years.
But for a superfan of Spain’s national soccer – er, fútbol - team, yes, it’s been a rough one.
And yes, he is a superfan. Just listen to him break down his country’s ousting from the World Cup.
“We've had such great six years with two European Cups and one World Cup,” Garcia said after Saturday’s third round. “I wasn't expecting for the team to not get through the group stages, but I thought the season was getting very long - maybe they get to the quarterfinals, semifinals, they would play very well. But it's different out there in South America for the European teams, so it was a little disappointing on that aspect. But there's nothing that I can do.”
It would be careless to suggest that he is using his frustration as fuel for his own performance. Or that he’s trying to vindicate national pride with a victory here in the heart of southern New England.
As Garcia and everyone in fútbol-mad Spain understands, for the defending champion to lose its first two matches is a special kind of hurt that won’t be soothed by any other individual athletic achievements anytime soon.
For him personally, though, earning his first victory in the United States since the 2012 Wyndham Championship would help ease what’s been a rough week.
“I would love for me to win and Spain does great,” he said when asked if he’d choose personal glory over national fandom. “You don’t want to be selfish or anything like that. Of course I want to do well for myself, though. That’s what I’m here for.”
So far, it’s working.
Playing here for the first time since a T-43 result in 2009, Garcia will enter the final round in a share of third place, just two strokes behind leader Ryan Moore.
“If I shoot 62, I'll probably win, but I don't know. It's just difficult to say,” he explained. “The way the course is playing every day, it's playing harder and harder.
“If it comes up with a little bit of wind and the greens start getting crusty - like they are at the moment - you know, it's not going to be easy tomorrow. So I don't know, maybe 3 under might be enough; maybe you need 6. You never know what the rest of the people are going to do. The only thing I can do is go out there, try to play the best I can and hope that that is good and see where that puts me.”
In the past few years, his best has often been annoyingly shy of being good enough.
Garcia owns a dozen top-10 finishes since that last PGA Tour win, including five already this season. Two of those – third-place results at the Shell Houston Open and Players Championship – have been serious title contentions, but despite wins in Thailand and Qatar already this year, he has yet to add to his ledger of eight career victories on U.S. soil.
“Winning is not easy,” he admitted. “And every week there's pressure to do well and give yourself a chance at winning. … It's just a matter of keep putting yourself in that situation and wait for that day where you feel great, where everything goes your way, and you know, there's no one that can catch you.”
Those are profound words from a player who too often receives grief for a lack of wins – he would top most cringe-inducing Best Player To Have Never Won A Major lists – but in reality is searching for the 30th worldwide title of his career at the age of 34.
If he’s able to add to that total on Sunday, if he’s able to climb the Travelers leaderboard and secure his name on another trophy, it will be more than just a silver lining in what’s been a rough week for the fan of Spain’s national team.
Well, for him, at least – if not for the rest of his native country.
“No, I wouldn't say so,” he laughed. “Fútbol in Spain is everything. If I would manage to, it would be great to go and win tomorrow. [But] it wouldn't make up for it, not for the fútbol fans.”