Sergio Hoping Luck on His Side at PGA

By Associated PressAugust 8, 2007, 4:00 pm
PGA ChampionshipTULSA, Okla. -- Rarely has a second-place finisher sounded like as big a loser as Sergio Garcia did after the British Open.
Three weeks later, and with another shot at a major coming up, Garcia said he wouldn't have changed a thing.
Well, maybe one thing.
Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia practices Wednesday in effort to win his first major championship. (Getty Images)
'I would have tried to hit that putt on 18 a little bit further out,' he said Wednesday, on the eve of the PGA Championship.
Concerning his post-Carnoustie comments, in which he elevated his bad luck to Shakespearean proportions, insisting nobody gets as many bad breaks as he does ... well, for that, he has no regrets.
'Yeah, I was emotional,' he said. 'I opened myself up to you guys, and I said what I felt. That's pretty much it.'
Several times Wednesday, Garcia gave Padraig Harrington the credit he duly deserves for winning the British Open, a sentiment that was sorely missing in the heat of the moment at Carnoustie.
Harrington's win, of course, left one fewer person to vie with Garcia for the title of Best Player to Never Win a Major.
Sergio burst onto the scene in 1999 as 'El Nino,' a brash teenager expected to be Tiger's next great challenger. But each year, the magical moment at that PGA -- the tree root, the sprint up the fairway at Medinah, the second-place finish filled with so much potential -- fades further into memory.
'It's a different situation,' Garcia said when asked if he used 1999 as positive reinforcement coming into this week. 'I didn't win the British Open. Padraig did, and he deserved it. He played very, very well all week. But I was the only one who had the winning putt in regulation. And to me, you know, that means a lot.'
If that putt slides an inch to the right, it's Garcia playing alongside first-time major winners Zach Johnson and Angel Cabrera in Thursday's opening round at Southern Hills and Harrington answering questions about how he manages to move on.
Instead, Garcia has fallen to 0-for-33 in the majors, a stat that, fair or not, carries more weight than his 14-4-2 Ryder Cup record. And it's Garcia who now plays the still-waiting-for-a-major role that once belonged to Phil Mickelson -- except in many minds, Garcia doesn't play it with nearly as much charm.
On Tuesday, Mickelson talked about how the hardest part of not winning a major was answering all the questions, trying to be open and honest and not sound like an idiot relating the deep-down feeling that he was sure his day would come soon.
'No matter which way you went with it, it was always going to come back to bite you,' Mickelson said.
Garcia tried to be open and honest after Carnoustie, but it was merely translated as self-pitying and lame.
Many feel he sacrificed his chance for empathy a long time ago.
He made few fans during his annoying bout of constant club waggling that stymied his game earlier this decade. His behavior at Bethpage during the 2002 U.S. Open, when he complained about the conditions, so-called preferential treatment for Tiger Woods and made an obscene gesture toward fans who were heckling him, may have been a turning point in the way many view him. Earlier this year, he spit in the cup after three-putting at the CA Championship at Doral, a gesture that couldn't be construed as anything but classless.
He was in the last group with Tiger at Bethpage, though he never had much of a chance. Last year, he played with Tiger again on Sunday at the British Open, but wilted quickly and finished fifth -- the most memorable thing about that round being the garish banana-yellow outfit he wore.
Now, Carnoustie. To get over his latest heartbreak, Garcia played a little tennis, went to the beach, hung out with friends.
'And then I started practicing,' he said. 'I think it was on Thursday, trying to get ready for Bridgestone last week.'
Harrington told of running into Garcia in the parking lot during last week's tournament. Both men were getting into their cars, so there wasn't a real opportunity to chat.
'It was very odd,' Harrington said.
He said that, sure, it would have been difficult for him to rebound had he lost the British, especially considering the double-bogey he posted on the 18th hole to put Garcia in position to win.
Garcia could have won, probably should have won. But then came the long wait -- five to 15 minutes depending on whom you talk to -- for his second shot on the 18th fairway. That led to an approach shot into a bunker. And that led to a 10-foot putt to win, one he struck well, but that just didn't go in.
He lost the playoff to Harrington by one stroke.
'I don't know. I should write a book on how to not miss a shot in the playoff and shoot 1-over,' Garcia said afterward. 'It's the way it is. I guess it's not news in my life.'
Open and honest? Or whiny and pathetic?
On Wednesday, he took a little bit different view of his bad breaks. He was focusing on the positives from that deflating day.
'That's the beauty of the game. That's what we play for,' he said. 'But you know, the guy that finishes second is always the first loser, I guess, so it's hard sometimes.'
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - PGA Championship
  • Getty Images

    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

    Getty Images

    Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

    McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

    “I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

    “There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

    He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

    “I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

    Getty Images

    Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

    Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

    Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

    “If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

    Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

    “It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

    Getty Images

    Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

    Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

    Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

    “It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

    “I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

    Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

    “If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”