Brian Viner: Garcia stuck on familiar road of early promise then late agony

Sergio Garcia, the dashing young gun who must feel that he is too good to end up like some bit character in a cheap novel called In The Shadow of the Tiger, came out with all guns blazing yesterday, with birdies on the first hole and then the fifth and seventh to reach the turn in 32, having narrowly missed birdie chances on the sixth and eighth.

Garcia in that kind of form is an irresistible spectacle, and word of his charge spread across these venerable links like the wildfire that mercifully didn't. However, he could not sustain it, and the cack-handed putting stroke that had served him so well on the front nine, began to look less cack-handed than ham-fisted. He bogeyed the 12th and 13th and came home in a disappointing 39 for a one-under par 71, leaving him at five-under and in need of some serious fireworks today.

The tasty three-ball that also included the big-hitting Englishman Paul Casey and the ever-popular Fred Couples started out at around the time that Tiger Woods was charming the socks off everyone at his press conference, explaining how flattered he felt to have been compared - albeit by Nick Faldo, not his favourite person - with Bjorn Borg. "I watch tennis all the time," said Woods. "I was a huge Sampras fan and now obviously I'm a huge Federer fan."

Coincidentally, it was Couples, at Wimbledon a couple of weeks ago, who compared Federer with Woods. And yet, in terms of the seemingly effortless grace with which Federer hits a tennis ball, maybe Couples himself is his closest equivalent on the golf course. That languid swing is a thing of beauty and, even on the rare occasions that it propels the ball in the wrong direction, as it did on the short 13th, he somehow manages to look exasperated in an unruffled way.

But the wonderful swing, alas, did not serve Couples at all well yesterday. After an opening 70 - and with his back giving him problems judging by a series of interesting stretches that caused some slightly unseemly excitement in one middle-aged female spectator - he slumped to a 77 to miss the cut comprehensively.

While Couples makes the golf swing look easy, Garcia (another who has taken a passing interest in tennis, having squired Martina Hingis for a while) does not. The 26-year-old is slim almost to the point of slightness but generates his enormous power off the tee with an extraordinary show of what in golfing jargon is known as torque, that pivot of the hips. He is a one-man torque show.

Like so many Spanish players, he is also a magician on and around the greens, yet it was his short game that let him down on the back nine. "C'mon Sergio lad," went up the cry from a gaggle of sunburnt Scousers after he had three-putted the 12th. They offered similar encouragement to Couples. "Go 'ead, Freddie lad." Casey, who unlike his playing partners is not universally known by his first name, can hardly have felt like the only man playing at home. And on his 29th birthday, too.

Still, he worked hard, and matched Garcia by reaching the turn in 32. However, he faded too, struggling home in 38. With a European contingent of unprecedented strength, this was meant to be the championship to end Europe's miserable winless run in the majors and Garcia and Casey seemed like two of the likeliest challengers. But with Woods and Ernie Els lording it at the top of the leaderboard, the Europeans will have their work cut out this weekend.

As for Garcia, one wonders whether he is destined, once Colin Montgomerie has stomped off the stage for the last time, to be dubbed "the greatest player never to win a major". It's still far to early to lumber him with that tag, of course. He will have lots more opportunities to make an impact. And yet it's not unfair to say that he has failed to realise his early promise, a promise that once seemed as abundant as that of Woods. Garcia was playing golf at the age of three, won his club championship at 12 and was a scratch player at 13.

In a way, his round yesterday encapsulated his career: effervescent early form promising mighty things, which were never quite delivered. Moreover, the player who conjured some marvellous chips and putts on the first 10 holes, including one superb shot from a hollow beside the 10th green that lipped out, hardly seemed like the same fellow who hit an absolute shocker when just short of the 16th green in two. Maybe he tries too hard. Ernie Els told me recently that the tournaments he has blown have been down to an excess of effort. But then, it doesn't seem likely that the Tiger will be caught by anyone not giving his all.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most