Sergio - A Young Tiger Four Years Removed


He celebrates his 22nd birthday Wednesday, this impulsive young Spaniard who last week captured the first tournament of the PGA Tours new year. And theres a nagging suspicion that, before the new year finally ends, we might be talking about a new sheriff in town. Just a suspicion, mind you, but its become at least a blip on the radar screen.
All along, weve believed this is the Tiger Woods era. Tiger is 26, four years older than this kid. At last, there is a kernel of doubt that is beginning to creep in. Could this Sergio Garcia come along and mess things up?
Maybe, as Woods says, this is just a momentary low point that he has been in since he last won on tour at the WCG-NEC Invitational. He did swoop down for a victory in his Williams World Challenge. But dont forget, even Jack Nicklaus had his down periods in 1970, when he finished ninth on the money list after finishing in the top three each of his first eight years; and 1979, his first year without a victory when he was finishing way back in 79th.
Garcia has one glaring shortcoming, and it isnt the fact that he grips and re-grips until you are certain the wrapping will come off in his hands. He lives in Spain, and he refuses to make a permanent move to America. That is bound to affect him negatively, simply because no one has of yet figured out how to cross the ocean seven or eight times in one year and not be out of sorts a little. And it will only get worse.
You know, I love Spain, he told reporters at the Mercedes Championships. Theres more things about that. You know, there are some things family-wise.
Garcia didnt specify what those family-wise things are, but suffice it to say, those things will keep him navigating back and forth across the Atlantic for the foreseeable future. And that probably will spread him out enough to ruin any chance of winning the U.S. money title. He plans to play just enough on the European Tour to keep his card there, but that probably is enough to scuttle any hopes of matching up the American and European money rankings.
Its still an enormous step to hurdle Tiger, however.
I dont think you put anybody as high as Tiger, Garcia said with finality. Thats to start with. Theres a big difference between that. I think what Tiger has done, its unbelievable. I dont think many people can do it.
To say that Garcia has been superior to Woods the past six months isnt saying a whole lot. There are five or six players who have been the striped ones equal of late. Its the future that will be most interesting to look at ' will Tiger pick up once again where he left off, as the greatest player to ever pick up a club? Or were those 2 years just an anomaly and will he now join the pack of simply very good golfers? Will Sergio be the best in the very near future?
Dont ask Sergio. But he does have one thing to say ' It used to be a tour and a guy. Now its becoming a tour again.
For a 22-year-old, hes not bad. No sir, not bad at all. The question is, is he as good as that certain 26-year-old? If not, will he ever be?
Garcia has been up and down, just as Tiger has. Hes had the occasional fits of temper ' just as Tiger has. The difference is, he turned pro at 19 and immediately started playing in Tour events. He has matured under a microscope. Tiger played two years of college golf at Stanford before he decided to go under this harsh spotlight.
One thing Sergio has going for him, though, is that he always seems like hes having fun. Maybe thats not the way to be No. 1. Tiger rarely looks as though hes really enjoying it when hes playing, although he certainly seems to enjoy it afterwards. But Garcia is having fun from the first drive to the last putt.
That hasnt always been true, even for someone as young as Sergio. Thats why my game wasnt able to come out, he says.
But even last year when I wasnt playing well, I was still trying to have fun. You know, Glen (Murray, his caddie) has been great at that. Peter Jacobsen helped me two years ago - he, too, told me a couple of things that really helped. But I think Glen has really been good. He knows the way I like to be to play good golf.

Even on the bad moments, he always tries to keep me there. He always will make a little comment that, you know, will pump me up.
Garcia is now giving caddie Murray his old Mercedes, an SLK 320. Garcia himself won a new one, an SL500, for the win. Bag-toters who have been instrumental in helping their employers win a $720,000 paycheck are deserving of an old SLK 320, Sergio feels.
And here he is, one week after winning at Mercedes and leading the tours money list.
To tell you the truth, I dont think Id be this good if I wouldnt have been that bad in 2000, he confessed, remembering the season when he finished down at 42nd on the money list. I learned a lot of things in 2000. It made my family come even closer than what it was, and that gave me a lot of strength.
You know, everybody has their own little methods of playing golf. You know, maybe I regrip too many times. But maybe amateurs are starting to try it, because it looks to me like its working.
He had to smile at that one. This is the man who sees Tiger way off in the distance, as just a glint in his eye. But the glint just got a little bit bigger. Maybe one day