Garcia happy so far, but must face 36 more holes and many challengers

August 24, 2012
Larry Dorman, PGATOUR.COM

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- In the sometimes complicated world of Sergio Garcia, things are not always what they seem. Often there are shadings in meanings and caveats in answers to seemingly simple questions. Take the one about the current state of his golf game, for example.


Garcia, 32, had just completed his second round on Friday evening in The Barclays, the opening event in the FedExCup Playoffs. He had added a 68 to his opening round of 66 on the increasingly difficult Black Course at Bethpage State Park. He was tied for the 36-hole lead with Nick Watney at 8 under, and the smile he wore was as genuine as the gold in the gleaming Omega watch encircling his wrist.

Pretty heady stuff, five days after closing out his two-stroke victory last Monday in the rain-delayed Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, where he posted a total of 18 under, the third-lowest total for a 72-hole event this year on the TOUR.

"Is this as good a stretch as you've had since...when?" a reporter asked Garcia.

Without hesitation, Garcia responded, "Probably 2008." Then, pausing for a second of reflection, he said, "Um, well, no, I shouldn't say that. Last year. It wasn't here, but it was last year in Europe, yeah, when I went back-to-back."

So, there's the caveat. Garcia's Wyndham win was his first in the United States since his bravura performance at the 2008 PLAYERS Championship, where he put on a textbook display of ball-striking on a windy Sunday at the squeaky-tight Stadium Course and shot a final-round 1-under 71 to chase down Paul Goydos to win the first sudden-death playoff in 21 years at TPC Sawgrass.

Later in the 2008 season, Garcia's game came alive at this same time of year. He finished tied for second at the PGA Championship, coming agonizingly close to taking his first major championship only to lose by two strokes to Padraig Harrington, the Irishman who had edged him in a playoff for the British Open at Carnoustie the year before. Garcia then came to 2008 Barclays and got himself into another playoff, this time with Vijay Singh, who prevailed with a birdie at the second extra hole at Ridgewood Country Club. A month later at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in the FedExCup Playoffs finale, he finished second in another playoff, edged by Camilo Villegas.

No telling if all of that ran through Garcia's mind when he recanted his answer on Friday, deciding instead on his 2011 wins in succession at the Castello Masters at Club de Campo Del Mediterraneo in Castellon, Spain, and the Andalucia Masters at the Club de Golf Valderama in Sotogrande, Spain.

But it does demonstrate not only how quickly he can change his very quick mind, but how much he values winning. When asked what it meant to win at Wyndham, where the late, great Spanish maestro, Seve Ballesteros, also had won in 1979, Garcia replied, "Winning any tournament is great. Doesn't matter where it is or who has won it before. If you can be paired up with Seve, you know, as much as he meant to not only Spanish golf, Spanish sports -- and I've been fortunate enough to win more than one tournament where he's won -- so, you know, that's obviously extra special."

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And that Sergio riff also calls to mind that Garcia has won 20 tournaments worldwide -- eight on the PGA TOUR, 10 on the PGA European Tour and two in Asia. His position tied for the lead after two rounds here underscores that, for all his near-misses at the Playoffs, only Tiger Woods, with his astonishing 67.75 stroke average in 40 rounds, had a better stroke average that Garcia's 69.02 in 55 rounds coming into the week.

Neither player has done anything to damage those averages so far this week, and Garcia knows he will be in for a difficult weekend with an assortment of challengers, young and old. Watney is a proven winner, the 49-year-old Singh, is just one stroke behind at 7 under, tied with Bob Estes. Australia's John Senden and Pat Perez are at 6 under and Woods is looming in a foursome tied for seventh place that includes 23-year-old Rickie Fowler and 22-year-old rookie John Huh.

Harrington, the first-round leader who slipped to a 75, is still not out of it at 3 under. Any one of a number of talented players who have yet to get air time may pop up between now and Sunday to claim the first installment of the 2012 Playoffs.

Said Woods, who shook off some back pain and said he'll be ready for Saturday, "Yeah, I'm only three back right now, so I'm right there. This is a very bunched leader board. There are so many guys there."

Garcia hopes he will be there at the end on Sunday. He informed the TOUR he will not play in next week's Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston, citing the wearying prospect of having to play six straight weeks with just one week off before the TOUR Championship and then the Ryder Cup. The decision heightens the importance of continuing what he's started so far at Bethpage Black.

"There's going to be two very hard days coming," he said. "The course is getting extremely difficult out there. Hopefully I'll be able to play well the next couple of days like I've been doing and keep myself in the position I am and have a chance on Sunday.

"I think I'm pretty much happy with everything that is going on."