Garcia has been dismal of late. Dating back to the second round of the Byron Nelson, he has shot seven straight rounds in the 70s. In fact, 24 of his last 28 PGA Tour scores have started with a 7.
Just three weeks ago, Garcia entered the MasterCard Colonial as the defending champion. He then proceeded to shoot 76-74 for a 10-over total, and missed the cut by a Texas mile.
This week, he needs a far better performance in order to keep his title ' and to properly gear his game towards next weeks major championship.
Last year, Garcia won the Buick Classic the week after finishing tied for 12th in the U.S. Open at Southern Hills. He captured the crown on a Monday by three shots over Scott Hoch.
Rain forced the final round to a fifth day. Garcia took a two-stroke lead into Mondays finale, and then fired a near-flawless 4-under-par 67. The then 45-year-old Hoch caught his much younger Spanish rival early in the round, but Garcia pulled away on the back nine. He tied the tournament record with his 16-under 268 total.
This is the 15th time that this event has preceded the Open, which will also be contested in New York, at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale.
The two tournaments have shared champions in the past. Ernie Els won the 1997 Buick Classic the week after winning his second U.S. Open. Els also won here in 96. Hale Irwin accomplished the double by winning the Buick after capturing his third Open title in 1990.
Two-time Open winner Lee Janzen won the 1994 Buick. Andy North won three times on tour ' two U.S. Opens and the 1977 Buick Classic. Overall, 13 of the 31 different Buick winners also have an Open triumph to their resumes; four others have won another major.
Reigning U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen is in the field this week, as are his two chief rivals from a year ago, Mark Brooks and Stewart Cink.
Two-time Westchester winner Vijay Singh, David Duval, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Memorial victor Jim Furyk, David Toms will also vie for the $630,000 first-place prize.
Full field and tee times for the Buick Classic