In Search of Sergio Garcia

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Diogenes was the biographer of the great Greek philosophers. According to legend, he wandered the countryside, carrying a lantern, in search of an honest man.
 
I dont even have a flashlight. And Im just sitting here at my laptop.
 
But Ive been searching for the real Sergio Garcia.
 
And I can report he has been found. At least for now.
 
Actually, I want to believe, for a lot of reasons, that it was Garcia, not the rest of us, who re-discovered his golfing self Sunday at the wind-blown PLAYERS. Thats where he beat the pertinacious Paul Goydos, the driest sense of humor in the game, on the first hole of a sudden death playoff.
 
A lot of hard work, Garcia said when it was over. And a lot of self-doubt erased. At least for now. Mostly because of putting.
 
Garcia one-putted seven of the last 14 greens Sunday, including a 6-footer on the 72d hole that punched his ticket to the playoff. And it was enough to silence a posse of critics. At least for now.
 
Prior to Sunday at the Stadium Course of the TPC at Sawgrass, I was wondering.
 
Was Garcia, the gifted golfing imp who burst onto the international golf scene in his late teens and lit up the 1999 Ryder matches like a firecracker?
 
Or was he the puzzling enigma'redundancy intended'who overshot the first green Sunday at The PLAYERS and missed a 5-foot comebacker for par?
 
Was the 28-year-old Spaniard the precocious short game wizard who finished fourth in putting on the PGA TOUR in 2000?
 
Or was he the tortured soul who ranked 158th in putting at the start of the week and 170th in 3-putt avoidance?
 
Was he the improved putter who ranked 22d from 10 to 15 feet this year when he arrived at Ponte Vedra Beach?
 
Or was he the demonized figure who showed up ranked 169th, according to Shotlink, on putts from four to eight feet?
 
Was Garcia, the dashing young man in the tuxedo japing James Bond in those expensively-produced TV commercials?
 
Or was he the guy his critics perceived to be a whiny brat, a perception bolstered last year by a post-round interview after finishing second at the Open Championship in which he suggested that bad breaks happen to him more than others?
 
Was Sergio the crisp, but sometimes-wild ball striker who ranked 140th in TOUR driving accuracy earlier this month?
 
Or was he the machine who led the PLAYERS field in fairways hit through 54 holes prompting NBCs Johnny Miller to call him a driving genius?
 
Was he the guy who blazed to a third round 65 late last month at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship?
 
Or was he the guy who showed up the next day and promptly spilled six shots to par over the first five holes?
 
Was Garcia the gallant pursuer who finished 67-66 on the weekend at last years PLAYERS, finishing second just two back of winner Phil Mickelson?
 
Or was Garcia the Sunday disappointer who trailed eventual winner Stephen Ames by a single shot after 54 holes at the 2006 PLAYERS only to sky to a final round 78 and freefall into a miserable tie for 14th?
 
Ive watched a lot of golf for a lot of years. And I dare say I dont confuse as easily as I did when I was younger. But I was thoroughly perplexed in the matter of Sergio Garcia and what direction his golfing future was headed.
 
Sunday at The PLAYERS he began the day, in the penultimate twosome, three shots behind 54-hole leader Goydos. It was gusty and a lot of the smart money thought that would play right into Garcias hands because his ball-striking is so sound.
 
They were correct. But the principal reason was the putter that Garcia wielded like a sword straight out of something dreamed up by Cervantes.
 
So now the monkey that had taken up residence on Garcias back has moved out. For now.
 
Was Sergio Garcia the bright young talent that won six times on TOUR while still in his mid-20s? Or was he the disappearing act who hadnt won in the States since the 2005 Booz Allen Classic?
 
For now, he is back to being the former.
 
And the next time somebody suggests he is the best player never to have won a major championship, he can smile and take it as a compliment instead of bristling and taking it as an insult.
 
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - THE PLAYERS Championship