A year ago, Sergio Garcia was in contention at The Players Championship — that is, until he dumped three balls in water hazards on the final two holes on Sunday. Well, this time around, Garcia is playing well again at TPC Sawgrass, posting an opening five-under 67 (which currently puts him in a tie for second with seven other players).
“It was a nice day, no doubt,” he said. “Started very well, obviously got to 6-under after 13, and just a shame I hit a good putt on 5 for par, and it was playing tough. Unfortunately it lipped out and then had a couple chances that I didn’t convert. You know, I can’t be disappointed with 5-under.”
And that finish from last year hasn’t embittered his taste for the Pete Dye-designed track.
“Obviously, I played pretty good, not amazing,” said a smiling Sergio. “But yeah, I think that when you come to a golf course where you feel a little bit more comfortable, where there’s obviously a couple shots there that are not my favorite, but other than that, for the most part I can see what I want to do, and that obviously makes it a little bit easier to make my mind up.
“It was nice to be able to play like I did today, and I’m just looking forward to hopefully doing a lot more of the same throughout the weekend.”
Garcia won The Players, the so-called fifth major, in 2008. While he’ll be gunning for his second title at Sawgrass this week, he’s still searching for his first major. No doubt he has the talent to win one, but the question has been whether he has the mental toughness and self-belief.
Two years ago at The Masters, he was in contention before dropping out following a poor third round. Afterward, he told the Spanish media that he wasn’t “good enough” to win “any major.” Then, in 2013 Garcia said he regretted those comments.
Today, he reiterated so much and stated quite confidently he *does* indeed believe he can win a major.
“That definitely was one of those days where you feel disappointed, where you just come off the course and you didn’t manage to do what you thought you could do or get what you thought you could get out of that round,” said Garcia, referring to his comments in 2012. “But like I said, it was one of those moments where you kind of things going on in your head, and it just explodes and you feel like you have to say it.”
It was one of those days for Sergio, who just can’t lie — he’s too honest for his own good sometimes and he says what he feels. On Thursday, he was in a positive place and believes he can win a major — any major.
“I think that when I’m on, I can definitely win anywhere,” said Garcia. “I think I’ve proven that. It’s just a matter of getting that week where you feel good, where you feel comfortable, where things go your way, where everything feels relaxed, everything feels at ease, and you manage to do things the way you know how to do them.
“I’m still waiting for that particular week. I’ve had, I would say, probably four really good chances, and I’m hoping that I can get many more until I quit playing.”
Fellow Spaniard and friend Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who also opened with a 67, thinks Sergio has more than what it takes to win majors.
“I remember that was two years ago at the Masters, and I mean, if he doesn’t have it, 80 percent of the field, we should just go home and do something else, because he’s got everything,” said Fernandez-Castano. “He’s got every shot in the bag. As I said, it will happen, I believe.”
“I’ve been playing (with him) since we were 10 years old. He used to beat us by 10 shots every week. I’ve seen him doing things that I haven’t seen anybody else, probably the only one Tiger he’s phenomenal, and as I said, the thing is he seems to be enjoying life again with his football and his tennis and his girlfriend, so everything is clicking again, and as I said, I think hopefully this is the year, 2014.”
Sergio, who took a two-month hiatus from golf in 2010, is in a good place these days — it’s obvious with his demeanor on and off the golf course, including during his press conference after his round Thursday. And there’s no doubt he’s in better spirits than he was at this time last year.
Let’s turn the clock back to a year ago, where Garcia was involved in a dramatic spat with Tiger Woods. Now, where do I even start with what happened and evolved into an ugly situation between the two here last year?
Well, first of all, the two have a long history and they don’t like each other. They used to kind of be buddies when they were young pros, but then something happened in the late ’90s when Sergio was still a young pro and there’s been no love lost between the two ever since.
Last year, Tiger and Sergio were paired together in the third round when The Incident occurred on the 2nd hole. Sergio made it clear that he wasn’t happy and felt that Tiger pulled a club early on purpose to distract him. Tiger responded by saying he wasn’t surprised Sergio was complaining about something. Sergio came back saying that Tiger wasn’t the nicest guy on Tour. It was so dramatic (and absurd) that I started referring to the whole thing as an episode of “the Real Housewives of the PGA Tour.”
Well, luckily, there will be no redux this year, with Tiger recuperating from his recent back surgery. Plus, Sergio says that’s all in the past.
“I think it’s over,” said Garcia, referring to The Incident. “I think it’s past. I didn’t think I was a villain, but I think that we’ve all moved ahead of that. I certainly have. I’m just looking forward to now and hopefully what’s coming soon.”
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)