Garcias Love of Ryder Cup Shows in Record


04 Ryder CupBLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Sergio Garcia stood in the middle of the 18th green at Oakland Hills - twirling the flag above his head, pumping a fist skyward and reveling in another Ryder Cup triumph.
He's the Seve Ballesteros for this generation, a fiery Spaniard who keeps the Europeans pumped up, annoys the Americans to no end with his boisterous antics and takes his game to a different level when he's playing with a team.
'There's nothing better,' he said.
Garcia's love for the Ryder Cup is apparent in his record. He's 3-1-1 in better-ball matches, a perfect 6-0 in alternate shots. The only blemish on his record: an 0-2 mark in singles, which can be rectified Sunday when he goes against Phil Mickelson.
Like Ballesteros, Garcia has a knack for the dramatic, which he demonstrated again Saturday morning by making a seemingly impossible 50-foot putt at the 18th hole.
All he had to do was line up with his back to the hole, knock the ball up on a ridge where it could take a sharp left turn, and provide just the right speed so it could roll downhill and somehow find the cup.
It was only a bogey, a shot with no impact on the match even though Garcia flipped his putter into the air to celebrate. Fortunately, it didn't plunk anyone on the head.
But Garcia proved before his remarkable putt that he's more than just bluster and flamboyant shots. Only 24, he hardly acts like the youngest member of the European side, especially in the better-ball and alternate-shot matches that require camaraderie, teamwork and selflessness.
'It's not about Sergio. It's about Europe,' Garcia said. 'I'm just trying to help my team as much as I can. I just want to play well and get as many points as I can, give my team a better chance to win.'
Garcia has sure done that at Oakland Hills, helping to earn 3 1/2 points in his four matches. Europe is up 11-5 going to the final day, the largest lead for either team since the current format was adopted a quarter-century ago.
That's the way Ballesteros played the Ryder Cup game, going 20-12-5 in his career and flamboyantly leading the Europeans to an improbable victory in 1997 as the non-playing captain.
Seve is still remembered for taking a 3-wood into a bunker at the 18th hole in 1983, somehow managing to put a 250-yard shot out of the sand within 10 feet of the cup. Jack Nicklaus called it 'the finest golf shot I've ever seen.'
Twenty-one years later, Garcia and partner Lee Westwood went to No. 18 during the morning matches all tied up with Jay Haas and Chris DiMarco. Everyone realized the significance. The U.S. team was charging after a dismal first day, threatening to take all four better-ball points.
Garcia drove into the bunker and still wasn't on the green two shots later. Westwood, meanwhile, plugged his second shot in the rough left of the green and faced the difficult task of getting it close to the flag.
As he lined up for his third shot, Garcia suddenly had a thought.
'Hold on, Lee,' the Spaniard said, prompting Westwood to back away from his ball.
Garcia, who was closer to the flag, decided to hit first, hoping to give Westwood an idea of how he could flop the ball above the hole and let it trickle back down the slope.
Good idea. Poor execution.
Garcia flew his shot over the ridge, an embarrassed grin on his face as the ball didn't stop rolling until it was on the other side of the green.
'What were you thinking there?' Westwood quipped.
The Spaniard wasn't done yet.
After Westwood managed to stop his shot 12 feet from the flag, Garcia elected not to pick up. At first, he thought his own putt might be used to help his teammate read his. When Garcia realized that wouldn't work - a different line was required to funnel the ball toward the hole - he putted anyway, figuring a miracle shot might take some of the pressure off Westwood for his par putt.
'I'll just hit it out there and maybe I'll hit the jackpot,'' Garcia thought to himself.
'I just got lucky,' he said.
It didn't even matter than Westwood missed his putt, taking a bogey that halved the match. By the end of the day, the Europeans had a commanding lead, helped along by Garcia and Luke Donald beating Jim Furyk and Fred Funk 1-up in alternate shots.
Now, the visiting team needs only to win three of 12 matches Sunday to retain the cup it has claimed in six of the last nine meetings.
True to form, Garcia couldn't resist taking one last shot before he left Oakland Hills.
'Believe it or not,' he said, a devilish look on his face, 'there are guys who can play golf outside the States.'
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