Wed, May 19, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Sergio Garcia still young after 5 years on pro tour


Sergio Garcia of Spain holds the Byron Nelson trophy after winning the EDS Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas, Sunday.


Still one of the youngest players in golf, Sergio Garcia has a hard time believing the Byron Nelson Championship was the five-year anniversary of his professional debut on the PGA Tour.

He was 19 when he showed up in Dallas, without a care in the world or even a driver's license. Garcia captured the hearts of the Texas gallery by attacking every pin, smiling at every pretty girl and saying all the right things. He wound up in a tie for third that year, and the best seemed to be right around the corner.

-- Two victories on the European tour as a rookie.

-- A showdown with Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship, including that shot he gouged out of a tree root and chased up the 16th fairway at Medinah.

-- One of the European stars in the Ryder Cup at Brookline, where he became the most celebrated 19-year-old at The Country Club since Francis Ouimet.

Five years later, he is still trying to establish himself as a legitimate star.

Garcia took an important step Sunday by winning the Byron Nelson Championship with tremendous shotmaking, average putting and not much effort in the sudden-death playoff.

After closing with a 1-over 71 -- the first player in 11 years at that tournament to win with a final round over par -- Garcia only had to two-putt from 30 feet on the first extra hole as Dudley Hart and Robert Damron fell apart.

"A couple of breaks here and there throughout the tournament are huge," Garcia said. "I just waited for them to happen, and fortunately enough happened this week."

It was his fourth PGA Tour victory, all of them against strong fields. The 64 world-ranking points moved him to No. 3 in the Ryder Cup standings in Europe, and he is a lock to play on his third team in September at Oakland Hills.

Some might have expected more out of Garcia by now, himself included.

`We're never satisfied'

"Definitely, I would have liked to have been a little better, the way I started," Garcia said. "When I turned pro, of course you hope for the best, but you don't know what to expect. I definitely would have been happy the way things are now. But you know, we're never satisfied. We always want more. Sometimes, maybe we get a bit too greedy."

When Garcia turned pro, David Duval was No. 1 and Woods was just starting to dial in on a revamped swing that would take him to unprecedented heights in golf, particularly in the majors.

Garcia, who once rose as high as No. 4 in the ranking, couldn't keep up. Before long, the attention shifted to other young players, such as 23-year-old Adam Scott of Australia, who won The Players Championship in March.

There have been other growing pains for Garcia.

His charm lost some of its shine when he kicked off his shoe in disgust after slipping on a shot, nearly hitting a tournament official in the World Match Play Championship in England. He blamed a playoff loss to Aaron Baddeley in Australia on a rules official out to get him.

Even last month, despite playing the final 12 holes at Augusta National in 8 under par to shoot 66 and finish in a tie for fourth at the Masters, he pouted in Butler's Cabin during an interview, and later with reporters.

"When we're playing well, we're the best," he said. "And even if we're playing well and things are not going our way, we can be shocking. So, it's nice to see how fair you guys are."

Garcia later attributed his mood at the Masters to being away from his home in Spain too long.

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