Garcia overcomes putting demons to regain pride after spectacular fall

Sergio Garcia is sporting a new haircut at Congressional. It's not severe enough to be a Last of the Mohicans Mohawk; it's more a Fauxhawk. But it's not what's on the outside of Garcia's head that causes all his trouble; it's what's going on inside.

He was supposed to be the new Seve Ballesteros when he exploded on to the scene as a 19-year-old in 1999 and went head to head with Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship. But Garcia, 31, is now 0 for 47 in the majors, as American stat geeks like to say.

So it's just typical of Garcia's bad luck that when he hangs around par after 36 holes of a US Open, as you're supposed to, Rory McIlroy chooses to channel the spirit of Woods to lap the field. Garcia followed up a first-round 69 with a 71 to be two under par for the championship. Perfectly placed in the race to be runner-up.

Such has been Garcia's fall from grace that he had to grind through 36 holes of a qualifying tournament in Memphis just to make it to Maryland. Nothing comes easy these days for the once freewheeling teen phenomenon. He was No 2 in the world just two years ago. Now he is buried at No 76 sandwiched between Frenchmen Gregory Bourdy and Raphael Jacquelin, players that are so anonymous on the world stage their own mothers would fail to pick them out of a police line-up.

Garcia was grumpy on Thursday evening after missing a tiddler of a putt to bogey the 18th. He started in the same frustrating manner at his first hole (the 10th) in the second round. This time it was a birdie that got away. His putting demons were once again tormenting him. The "woe is me" part of his personality could have begun to whittle away at his confidence, especially when he dropped a shot at the 11th. But Garcia dug deep and fought back.

He holed a 40-footer at the 13th to get to two under par and did it again at the 16th to save par. Seve would have been proud. He hooked his drive into the trees, hacked up the side of the rough, slashed a wedge on to the green and willed the ball to drop into the hole with its last roll.

Garcia was the only one of his three amigos group to be smiling. And when did that happen last? Alvaro Quiros was grimacing and muttering to himself. The only thing sharp about him was his trademark pencil-thin sideburns.

Miguel Angel Jimenez was playing like a man happily growing old disgracefully with his stogies, rioja and ponytail that, quite frankly, shouldn't be seen on a 47-year-old.

Garcia missed another short putt at the 17th. Only a par. It's the five-footers that haunt him. Every time he stands over one, doubt must enter his brain like a ticking bomb.

Where once there was a raging war between Garcia and US Open crowds, there is now support and sympathy. He all but entered the crowd in New York in 2002 to fight hecklers counting out his waggles before he hit each shot. His waggle yips are mostly under control these days and maybe his luck is about to change. That's if McIlroy decides to take a sabbatical.

Garcia pushed his drive at the 18th. The target from under the branches where Garcia stood looked no bigger than a beer mat. He decided to take it on. The waggle count increased to a dozen with the tension of the challenge. The ball fizzed towards the greens but began to follow the contours of the land towards the water. Deep breath. It stopped on the precipice. And breathe out.

A chip left him with his five-foot Nemesis length. He holed it for par. Nemesis tamed. Now if only he could do the same with McIlroy. "Even par was a good round," Garcia said, "but I didn't play well enough. I was fighting to make pars."

Garcia would be in with a chance of victory if he weren't nine shots behind McIlroy. He sounded like he had already given up any hope. "It will be great for him to win," he said. "He's a wonderful player and a nice kid. But I have bigger worries than Rory McIlroy."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor