Waggle-Free Garcia Hopes to Turn Corner at British

RSS

SANDWICH, England (AP) -- The waggle is largely gone.
 
Now, Sergio Garcia has to find his game.
 
When the British Open begins Thursday, 'El Nino' will get a chance to witness the best-case scenario for a reconstructed swing -- Tiger Woods is one of his playing partners.
 
After winning his first Masters title, Woods embarked on an 18-month process to redo his swing, looking for more consistency and less reliance on power and timing. Since then, he's added seven more major titles to his resume.
 
Garcia hopes for similar results, though he insists this isn't an attempt to keep up with Tiger.
 
'I don't know if the changes in my swing are going to make me as good as him or better or worse,' the Spaniard said. 'I'm focusing on myself. I did those things because I felt like I had to, not because anybody else did something and it turned out well. It's pretty much my deal.'
 
The swing transformation has been slow, tedious and frustrating for the guy once poised to be Woods' chief rival. Garcia missed the cut in six of his first 11 events this year, but he's shown signs recently of getting things together.
 
At the U.S. Open, he opened with a 69, made it to the weekend and finished 35th. In his last PGA Tour event, Garcia posted his best result of the season, a fourth-place finish at the Buick Classic.
 
Will this be the week he finally breaks through?
 
'It's getting better,' Garcia said. 'I don't think so much about (the swing change) anymore. I still have to improve a little more, but it's coming along. It's feeling more and more comfortable, so that's why the results are starting to come slowly.'
 
Defending British Open champion Ernie Els expects Garcia to be a contender again.
 
'You can't write him off,' Els said. 'He's made changes like everyone else in their careers. Tiger made changes. We all make changes to get better. He made these changes because he wants to get better and more consistent. It's just a matter of time before he's playing his best again.'
 
There was a time when Garcia's potential seemed Tigerlike.
 
At 19, he nearly pulled off his first major title, finishing one stroke behind Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship but creating the signature moment of his career.
 
With 6-iron in hand and eyes closed, Garcia whacked the ball out of the trees at No. 16, then bounded up the fairway like an excited child. As he crested the hill, he leaped in the air to discover his ball safely on the green, winning over the gallery with his youthful enthusiasm.
 
Garcia still plays with that sort of passion, though some feel it's more show than sincere. He believes it's all part of growing up.
 
'I've matured,' he said. 'I know how to handle myself better now. I'm more patient. Those are things that really help when you're out on the golf course. It's not easy, but you have to realize that it's just a game and you just give your best.'
 
That patience has been sorely tested since he began tinkering with his swing and, mercifully, cut out most of the waggling and re-gripping that preceded every shot.
 
Where Garcia once generated staggering power by dropping his hands in buggy-whip fashion, he now keeps the club parallel at the top and in front of him on the downswing to reduce the lag.
 
Clearly, the changeover is still a work in progress. If Garcia can pull it off, he'll have a swing that doesn't rely so heavily on timing. Maybe then, the time will be right for that first major title.
 
'That's one of the goals, no doubt,' Garcia said. 'I'm confident that if I keep moving down this path, I'll win one. Definitely. I'm working hard at it. I just have to be patient and wait for the time. As soon as you win one, then the next one seems a little easier.'
 
Garcia was certainly rolling the dice when he decided to alter his swing. After all, he was doing just fine the old way, winning nine times around the world and finishing in the top 10 of all four majors a year ago.
 
He even got to play with Woods in the last group at the 2002 U.S. Open, but a 74 left him six strokes behind the world's best player at Bethpage Black.
 
Garcia looks forward to another chance to play with Woods. Those two will be paired with Luke Donald for the first two rounds at Royal St. George's.
 
'I've always said I like to play with the best,' Garcia said. 'I played with Ernie this year at the Masters, and I really enjoyed it. I've always enjoyed playing with great players. That's something I've worked my whole life for, to put myself in position to play with them.'
 
Not that he'll be watching Woods. The Spaniard has his own game to worry about.
 
'I really don't care how he's playing,' Garcia said. 'I'll be playing for myself.'
 
Related Links:
  • 132nd Open Championship Home
  • More Open Championship News
  • Course Tour - The Royal St. George's Golf Club
     

    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.