Sergio Ready to Emerge from Shadows

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- This year started with the Big Three. Then it expanded to the Big Four. And because everyone not named Retief Goosen said Retief Goosen should be included, there became the Big Five.
 
Just on the fringe of the Big However Many stands Sergio Garcia.
 
Sergio Garcia
Putting may be the one thing keeping Sergio Garcia from being among golf's elite.
Garcia is ranked eighth in the world. Hes about two full points behind Goosen, who stands in fifth place ' and two full majors. And thats about the proper distance between golfs current crop of really good players and the truly elite.
 
Garcia is good, really good. Hes coming off a season in which he won twice on the PGA Tour, once on the European Tour and went 4-0-1 for a victorious European squad in the Ryder Cup.
 
Thats an amazing performance, and one he would love to duplicate annually (or biennially, as would be the case). But its not good enough to force the evolution of a Big Six.
 
The media, of course, tends to focus the lions share of its attention on the top of the top. Woods, Singh, Els, Mickelson, and to a lesser extent Goosen, grab the majority of the headlines.
 
Does it bother Garcia that he can accomplish so much and still be overlooked at times?
 
To tell you the truth, I really dont care that much. I know what I can do. Thats something that you guys (the media) like to point out, he said.
 
I really feel like Ive just got to get better, keep improving and let my clubs do the talking. You know, when I do that, then you guys will realize if Im in that category that you were talking about or not.
 
You can tell, however, there is something there. Something below the surface that occasionally rises up to shake the tree for a few leaves of respect.
 
It was just a year ago that Garcia shot 66 in the final round of the Masters and then chided a handful of reporters, saying When we're playing well, we're the best ... So it's nice to see how fair you guys are, and I just hope that you guys don't come out now saying, oh, you know, he's back, and this is the Sergio we know and all that.
 
Garcia later apologized for the outburst. Hes always been more emotional than most. And sometimes we tend to forget that hes only 25 years old and still maturing.
 
You know, I think thats probably one of my strengths, Garcia said a couple of weeks ago about his outward emotions. But, you know, you can also ' if you dont control it the right way, it can also be a weakness. So youve got to make sure that you go always on the right path.
 
It only seems that Garcia is well beyond his actual age. He rose to international prominence when he gave Woods a run at the 1999 PGA Championship ' when he was just 19.
 
He finished second that year at Medinah. And it wasn't long thereafter that he was grouped into the dreaded Best Player Never to Have Won a Major category.
 
I find it a bit funny, because, you know, Im (25) and they are putting me on that list already. Its like, if you just got on tour, and some people just got on tour who are 24, 25 years old and you cant just put them on that list.
 
But its also a good thing, because they consider you a good golfer, a good player.
 
Garcia has notched seven top-10 major finishes since nearly scissor-kicking his way to the 99 PGA title, but he hasnt come as close to winning one as he did that Sunday nearly six years ago.
 
You have to keep giving yourself chances, and as I said other years, theres some guys that are a bit more fortunate than that ' they get one chance and they get through. And theres some other guys that it takes them a bit longer, he said.
 
But, you know, I think that Im giving myself good opportunities of winning majors ' and thats all I can do at the moment, and hopefully things will go my way in one of them.
 
Garcia made an effort to better his game ' and his chances of winning a major ' by reworking his swing throughout the 2003 season. It was a trying period; and one where he suffered through his worst results as a professional.
 
It brought about plenty of criticism from others at the time, but now seems to have brought about plenty of positives for Garcia. Last year showed him ' and everyone else ' that everything he had been working on was actually going to work for him.
 
He ranked sixth on tour in scoring average and fourth in greens hit in regulation. He was 33rd in driving distance, but 170th in driving accuracy.
 
Garcia, who has bulked up a bit this year, carrying about 170 lbs on his 510 frame, isnt overly concerned about his waywardness off the tee. The Ford Championship was further proof that its better to be long than accurate in this day and age on the PGA Tour.
 
At the moment, Garcia is focused on improving his putting, where he ranked 129th on tour in 04.
 
The long game ' I think it was great, the best I had in my career, no doubt about it, Garcia said of his 2004 performance. Unfortunately, I didnt putt very well last year and it showed.
 
If I would have been putting a little bit better, I probably would have had four easy, good chances of winning more tournaments last year.
 
Garcia hasnt sniffed a victory yet this year. He got a top-10 at the limited-field Mercedes Championships and made it to the quarterfinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. But he has yet to crack the top 40 in two full-field, stroke-play events.
 
And he can point right to his putting for the reason why. For the most part, his numbers thus far this season are right on pace with last years ' he even leads the tour in Grenns Hit ' but hes 182nd on tour in putting average.
 
Im still a bit rusty, he said in his last event at the Ford Championship, where he ultimately tied for 64th. Definitely not feeling my best. But, you know, working on it and trying to get better and see if we can get some confidence.
 
If he can find a little confidence with the flat stick, it might swallow up his entire game. And wouldnt that add to an already dynamic season?
 
There's no doubt at the moment there's a lot of guys playing well. Of course probably two or three years ago, you know, Tiger was the one that was standing out. There was some other guys playing pretty well, but I think right now at the moment, there's a bigger group playing quite well, you know, playing good golf.
 
If I keep working on the same things Ive been working, Ill have a good chance of doing some good things.
 
Related Links:
  • Sergio Garcia's Bio
  • Full Coverage - Bay Hill Invitational