INSIDE THE ROPES By TOM LaMARRE
Inside the ropes – When Adam Scott captured the Masters, he crossed his name off the list of best players without a major title. Sergio Garcia, who tied for eighth at Augusta, remains the poster boy. Garcia, whose signature moment still is chasing Tiger Woods all the way to the finish of the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah, often seems farther from major glory than he was as a precocious 19-year-old. “We all have a chance of winning a major,” said Garcia, who is in the field this week at the Wells Fargo Championship. “I’ve had a couple. It’s just a matter of seeing if it happens at that time or who you go against. “Unfortunately, my chance in ’99, it was against the best player in the world and I came up a little short. But I’m still working hard to get that first major and keep going from there, and that’s the goal. ” … I don’t really care (about the label, best player to never win a major). I would love to get rid of it, yes.”Garcia, who at 33 has outgrown his nickname, “El Nino” (The Boy, or The Child), has finished in the top 10 on 18 occasions at the Grand Slam events, including second three times, seemed to hit a new low in the majors last year in the Masters.
After starting with 72-68 to rank among the leaders, he was devastated after shooting 3-over-par 75 in the third round to fall out of contention en route to a tie for 12th and said out loud that he simply wasn’t good enough. “If I felt like I could win, I would do it,” he told Spanish reporters. “Unfortunately at the moment, unless I get really lucky in one of the weeks, I can’t really play much better than I played this week. And I’m going to finish 13th or 15th. What does that show you? “That’s the reality. I’m not good enough and today I know it. I’ve been trying for 13 years and I don’t feel capable of winning. I don’t know what happened to me. Maybe it’s something psychological. …”After 13 years, my chances are over. I’m not good enough for the majors. That’s it. I’m not good enough. I had my chances and opportunities and I wasted them. I have no more options. I wasted my options. … Tell me something I can do.” Garcia went through more major misery this year at Augusta National, tying for the first-round lead with a brilliant 66, but followed that up with 76-73-70 to wind up in that tie for eighth. This time, he was not as emotional about yet another major failure, only resigned to that fact. “I think I am where I deserve, and you have to be happy with that,” said Garcia, who is playing well, having finished in the top 20 in eight of his nine events this season on both major tours and is leading the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. “I tried as hard as I could every single day. Unfortunately a couple of the days didn’t go my way. I had two very good days and two not-so-good ones. So overall I can’t be too disappointed with it.” … Probably overall the best I’ve played at the Masters. Unfortunately I didn’t score very well (the last three days).” There will be plenty more chances for Garcia, but that’s what they kept saying about Colin Montgomerie, the best player from golf’s last generation who has never won a major title and at the age of 49 would need a miracle. In both cases, it remains a mystery as to why it hasn’t happened. “(Garcia) came out like Tiger, and it looked so easy,” said Jesper Parnevik, his former Ryder Cup partner. “But in his mind, he hasn’t lived up to expectations.” And in everyone else’s, too. Other than 1999, the closest he has come to winning a major was losing in a playoff to Padraig Harrington in the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie and tying for second to Paddy the following year in the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills.
Garcia enjoyed what until now has been his career year in 2008, when he won three times on three continents, capturing the Castello Masters in Spain, the HSBC Champions in China and the Players Championship, the so-called “Fifth Major,” at TPC Sawgrass. Early the following year, Garcia’s life and game began to unravel at the same time after his girlfriend, Morgan Leigh Norman, daughter of Greg Norman, broke up with him. He was gutted. Garcia, who admitted that his romance with Norman probably was the first time he had really been in love, foundered on and off the course, and his family was legitimately concerned about his mental well-being. “Obviously, the break-up with Morgan did not help,” Sergio said. “You get over some things; others take a little longer. I wasn’t sad because my relationship was public because everybody knew about it. I was sad because of my feelings. It is within me. It is in my heart. I am not thinking what other people are thinking about it. ” … It was her doing not mine. It is unfortunate, one of those things. Do I think of her all the time? No. It is pretty much back in the past now. It happens to everybody. It happens to some people when they are 15, some when they are 25, some in their 40s. Break-ups are never nice.” Garcia, once No. 3 in the World Golf Rankings, fell out of the top 50 as he slumped for nearly two seasons before winning the Castello Masters and Andalucia Masters on consecutive weeks late in the 2011 Euro Tour season.
Last year, he captured the Wyndham Championship, his first victory on the PGA Tour since the 2008 Players, and he is back in the top 20 of the World Golf Rankings. There remains, however, that missing major piece to the puzzle. “If I don’t have a major, what can I do?” Garcia said. … “Some guys need to win a major, some guys don’t.” His best chance this year might come in the Open Championship at Muirfield, what he calls “the best links course in the world,” and where he won the 1998 English Amateur Championship. To win there, perhaps he simply needs to channel his inner El Nino.