AKRON, Ohio – Different month, different continent, but for Sergio Garcia, the same result.
Equipped with a three-shot lead to begin the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Garcia was passed by Rory McIlroy and finished alone in second place, two shots back. It was the second time in as many starts that Garcia finished second to McIlroy, having come up two shots short at the Open Championship two weeks ago.
Garcia shot a 1-over 71, and now has won just three of 12 times when holding at least a share of the 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour.
“I just had one of those days where it didn’t feel quite as good,” Garcia said. “Because of that, I wasn’t able to get a little bit closer and maybe win it.”
Garcia led by five shots with three holes to go in the third round when play was halted because of rain. When play resumed, he watched McIlroy trim his advantage from five shots to three.
That lead then evaporated quickly Sunday, as McIlroy opened the final round with three straight birdies. By the time the pair reached the fourth tee, McIlroy was ahead by a shot.
“He really did what he needed to do,” Garcia said. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t up to the challenge, I guess.”
While he didn’t leave with the trophy, Garcia’s second straight runner-up finish was good enough to move him to No. 3 in the world rankings. He explained that he wasn’t disappointed with the week, having netted just his second top-10 finish in 13 starts at Firestone.
“Obviously I could have played better, [but] I didn’t feel like I played that badly,” he said. “He played really good. You’ve got to give him credit for that, too.”
Garcia pointed to the par-3 15th hole, when he was facing a one-shot deficit, as a turning point in his round. An errant tee shot left him with an awkward stance in the rough and led to a bogey, which put him two shots behind McIlroy with just three holes to play.
“The thing that bothers me the most is the swing on 15,” he said. “I need to get my head straight there and make my mind [up] and hit the shot, and whatever happens happens. I can’t be hitting the shot thinking one thing and trying to do another thing, and obviously hit a terrible shot and got not the best of lies.”
Despite claims earlier in the week that Valhalla doesn’t suit his game, Garcia is eager to carry his momentum into next week’s PGA Championship.
“When I get there, we’ll see how the course fits and see how comfortable I feel there,” he said. “I’ve been playing well, so I’m excited about that. Hopefully I can have another good week there.”