Heading into the famed 17th hole, Sergio Garcia had just tied his nemesis Tiger Woods by rolling in a birdie on the 16th. Garcia could feel the adrenaline running through him. He was striping the ball. He thought he might overshoot the green from 120 yards. Instead, his tee shot came up short and into the drink.
He re-teed and hit his wedge again. This time it reached land, but it wasn’t enough and bounced back into the pond. Ouch.
Golf is a cruel, cruel game. Sergio knows that too well. He’s had many heartbreaks over the years. So many that it’s crushed his belief in himself. You get the sense he doesn’t want to set himself up for disappointment, so he lowers his expectations and tells himself he’s not good enough to win a major, like he did at the Masters last year.
It’s a shame, but anyone who has played the game at any level knows just how deflating and demoralizing golf can be. But on Sunday, Sergio tried to win. You can’t fault him for playing for second or third. He took dead aim at the pin on 17. Not only once, but twice.
He didn’t play for second place. He didn’t back off the tucked Sunday pin. He played aggressively with everything on the line. And he failed, but at least he tried.
On his third tee ball, Garcia opted to aim for the middle of the green instead of firing at the pin and finally reached dry land. He two-putted for a 7, quadruple-bogey.
The bleeding didn’t end there. He pulled his tee shot on 18 into the water guarding the left side of the hole. He finished with a double-bogey.
After he signed for a four-over 76, he didn’t make any excuses.
“I just underhit it a little bit,” said Garcia, who signed for a four-over 76 to drop back to a tie for eighth. “I felt with a little bit of adrenaline and stuff I didn’t want to shoot over the green with a wedge. Just needed to hit it a little bit harder, maybe a little too confident. I felt so uncomfortable throughout the whole throughout most of the weekend, and then all of a sudden I started hitting good shots and I felt like I was back feeling good. If I would have hit it a bit farther left it would have been fine.
“I mean, that hole has been good to me for the most part. Today it wasn’t. That’s the way it is. That’s the kind of hole it is. You’ve got to love it for what it is.”
At the 2008 Players Championship, Garcia beat Paul Goydos in a playoff with an aggressive shot on the 17th. He knocked it to four feet, while Goydos dunked it in the water.
Sergio won’t lose any sleep on his late mistakes that cost him the tournament and approximately $800,000.
“It doesn’t bug me now,” he said. “It happens. Like I said before, I’ve been fortunate on that hole. I’ve won my PLAYERS Championship on that hole, and today I’m not going to say I lost it because I still obviously Tiger was 13-under and I still needed to make par there and par on 18 which is not easy with this wind from the left. But I definitely stopped winning it there.”
Garcia and Tiger Woods, who won by two shots, were paired together in the third round. As you know, they don’t like each other, to put it mildly. An incident on the second hole on Saturday led to an exchange of words through the media to so much drama that you felt like you were watching The Real Housewives of the PGA Tour.
On Sunday, Sergio didn’t let that get to him, though. He didn’t blame his performance or the loss on his row with Tiger.
“No, I’m not going to blame it on that,” said Sergio when asked if that affected him mentally. “That happened one hole, and obviously everybody saw what happened and that’s it.”
Was it a distraction?
“Maybe a little bit,” he said. “But I mean, it really distracted me at that time, then after that you kind of move on and you try to figure things out.”
Later in the interview, he was asked if he would have done things differently in regards to his spat with Tiger.
“No, no, I don’t know, it sounds like I was the bad guy here,” he said. “I was the victim. You know, I don’t have any regrets of anything.”
D’oh! He was doing so well before that. Despite his personal feelings against Tiger, Sergio wasn’t driven more to beat him because of all that had unfolded.
“You want to win every tournament you play on,” he said. “Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. And you want to beat everybody in that field, and if he’s in that field obviously you want to beat him. It’s always nice to have a chance at beating the No. 1 player in the world, but unfortunately for me I wasn’t able to this week. ”
(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)