This was supposed to be Sergio Garcias day. The day he became a major champion. The day he fulfilled all levels of expectation and promise. The day he could actually start enjoying press conferences.
A day he would never forget.
At least the last part was right.
The day was all set up in Sergios favor. He had a three-stroke lead to start the final round of the Open Championship at Carnoustie. He had a friend in his putter. And he had Tiger Woods no way near him.
Steve Stricker was Sergios closest competitor. He was three in arrears, while no one else was within five. There were a few formidable foes six back, like 2002 Open champ Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Chris DiMarco and K.J. Choi.
But, cmon, six back? No way. This was Sergios day.
It seemed that way as the sun woke up and it seemed that way as it started to settle in for sleep.
Argentine Anders Romero had self destructed on the 17th hole to end his inspired run. And when Padraig Harrington plunked two into the Barry Burn on 18 ' after having started the hole with a one-shot lead ' en route to double bogey, it appeared as if he, too, was doomed.
As he reached the 18th hole of regulation, Sergio needed only a par to claim his first major title. It was all on Sergios shoulders.
Oh, if only that was the case. If only Fate didnt hate on Sergio. If only the Union of Bunker Rakers didnt have a grudge against Sergio. If only was there anything else Sergio whined about at the end of the day?
Garcia had to wait a few minutes (which apparently felt like an eternity ' Having to wait 15 minutes in the fairway doesn't help when you're trying to win the British Open, he later said.) while a course employee raked a greenside bunker from the group ahead. A frustrated and impatient Sergio then dumped his approach shot into said bunker, plopped out and had 10 feet for par and the victory.
For the first time in his career, Sergio had what every player dreams of: a makeable putt to win a major championship. Only it wasnt so makeable.
The putt slid by and Sergio buried his head in his unfaithful putter. It was off to a four-hole cumulative playoff with Harrington.
I still don't know how that par putt missed. I'm still trying to ask myself, trying to find an answer on that, Sergio said.
While Garcia was fighting from being distressed and depressed, Harrington was all smiles and confidence heading back to the 10th tee box.
In fact, he was all smiles after walking off the 18th green in regulation. Despite having double bogeyed the final hole to all-but cost himself the Claret Jug, Harringtons Irish eyes could help but light up at the sight of his ??-year-old son running out onto the green to give him a big hug.
Fathers Day may fall on U.S. Open Sunday, but this was the most indelible father-son image of the year. That moment helped keep Harrington focused on a positive outcome.
I never let myself feel like I'd lost The Open Championship as I sat watching. The one thing, I never, ever had it in my head that I'd lost, he said.
History will note that two men entered this playoff and that Harrington ultimately defeated Garcia. It will, however, make no mention of Fates part (at least in Sergios mind).
Apparently, Garcia forgot about his approach shot on the first extra hole, which landed short of the green and ended up costing him a shot. His bogey combined with Harringtons birdie gave the Irishman a two-stroke lead.
On the next hole, Garcia found a bit more misfortune. With Harrington in trouble off the tee, right of the green, Sergio watched in total disbelief as his tee shot clanked off the flagstick and 18 feet past the hole.
He missed the birdie putt, made par, and damned his bad luck.
It's funny how some guys hit the pin or hit the pin and go to a foot. Mine hits the pin and goes 20 feet away, he said.
After both players parred the third extra hole, the par-4 17th, it was back to the infamous 18th. Harrington played the hole conservatively and left himself with a 3-foot putt for bogey, which meant Sergios 25-foot birdie putt could force sudden death.
But, of course, Fate wasnt going to let that fall.
You know what's the saddest thing about it? It's not the first time. It's not the first time, unfortunately. So, I don't know, I'm playing against a lot of guys out there, more than the field, Sergio lamented.
After Sergios miss, Harrington rolled in a little more than a tap-in and became 2007 Champion Golfer of the Year.
I couldn't believe it as it was rolling in from right in the middle hole and I'm thinking, The Open Champion. Am I The Open Champion? What does this mean? Harrington said.
It meant that Harrington had ended Europes major championship drought, which dated back, coincidentally, to the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie. It also meant that Harrington was now the cream of the crop in European golf.
As for Sergio, the events of July 22, 2007 meant that he was still without a major. That he was still unfulfilled professionally.
And that future press conferences were going to be even less tolerable than ever.