Magical memories the spur for Garcia

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The Independent Online

When Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson square up (metaphorically, of course) on the first tee in the first round of the US PGA Championship here in Chicago today, there will inevitably be 154 forgotten men making up the rest of the field. One in particular, though, may feel most left out.

The last time Sergio Garcia was at Medinah he was 19, fearless and had the world at his feet. Now, he is 26, fearful and has the world on his shoulders. Lots of good things have happened to the young Spaniard since the final major of the last century, but none of them has quite lived up to the great thing he did here last time around. And he is constantly reminded of it. If anyone has ever been a victim of their own glorious failure, it is Garcia.

"If you go around to young guys of 26, 27 or 28, and ask them if they'd like Sergio's career, I don't think many would say no," he said yesterday, understandably keen to point out that he has not exactly sunk without a trace since bubbling to the surface with such effervescence in 1999.

In the 27 majors since his big-time arrival, Garcia has finished in the top 10 on 10 occasions, quite easily the best record of any European in this period. Alas, he has never been closer than he was here seven years ago, and even he has to admit that has been something of a let-down.

"Of course, I did expect more," Garcia said, in a rare instance of candour, "I was hoping for more. I'd like to do better, but I'm not the only one playing, so it's not that easy."

It sure seemed it back then, as he made up four shots on a seemingly out-of-sight Tiger to miss out narrowly on the Wanamaker Trophy but comfortably win over the crowd. Famously, what everyone remembers is that shot on the 16th, when at the base of an oak tree and nowhere to go but sideways. As he has walked up that fairway this week, the galleries have shouted to him to reprise that moment of madness/ magic when he shut his eyes, risked life and a few limbs by swinging at it and somehow found the green.

"I've had a peer at it, but I haven't tried it," he said. "I was looking forward to seeing my tree as that shot meant a lot to me and my career. I was expecting to see a big hole in it."

Woods, himself, is prone to smile whenever he is asked to reminisce about that six-iron; Sergio's swipe and celebratory run and scissor-kick up the fairway really were that spectacular. And even though he has built up something of a resentment towards Garcia since their great duel, Woods is still kind enough to say, "It's just a matter of him doing the right things at the right time.

"But he's put himself there," added Woods. "You put yourself there enough times, you're going to get it done."

But not, perhaps, this next four days. As he proved last month at Hoylake, Garcia is simply not putting well enough to win, just as none of the Europeans appears to be and, despite there being a record number (32) of them at this US PGA, the 75-year barren run back to Tommy Armour's victory looks likely to be extended yet further.

That might prove no great shame as, in his current mood, Woods might just be deemed unbeatable anyway. Having been his longest price (5-1) to win an Open in eight years when setting out at Hoylake, he is now the shortest to win a US PGA in five years (2-1). What a difference one major makes. Mickelson, his partner today, may just have to testify to it.

Today's first-round tee-off times

(US unless stated; times BST)

Starting at first hole

1300 A Romero (Arg), R Palmer, M Small (Eng)

1310 S Flesch, G Bisconti, A Hansen (Den)

1320 J Kane, T Purdy, C Schwartzel (SA)

1330 P Perez, C Howell III, J Sindelar

1340 J Kelly, H Slocum, P Harrington (Irl)

1350 C Barlow, M Weir (Can), T Hamilton

1400 L Glover, R Allenby (Aus), T Immelman (SA)

1410 B Wetterich, S K Ho (S Kor), J-M Olazabal (Sp)

1420 Z Johnson, B Curtis, P Lonard (Aus)

1430 R Pampling (Aus), K J Choi (S Kor), T Herron

1440 G Owen (Eng), T Weinhart, G Fernandez-Castano (Sp)

1450 R Moore, J Edfors (Swe), H Frazar

1500 S Arnold, B Mayfair, S Khan (Eng)

1805 N Green (Aus), L Rinker, R S Johnson (Swe)

1815 J Parnevik (Swe), B Jobe, K Mitchum

1825 A Oberholser, B Bryant, J Gore

1835 K Perry, R Sabbatini (SA), A Scott (Aus)

1845 S Micheel, B Tway, D Love III

1855 A Cabrera (Arg), S Maruyama (Japan), J Furyk

1905 T Lehman, D Howell (Eng), R Gamez

1915 S Garcia (Sp), F Couples, E Els (SA)

1925 S Appleby (Aus), J B Holmes, C Montgomerie (Sco)

1935 J Daly, J Sluman, V Singh (Fiji)

1945 C Pavin, J Rollins, B Langer (Ger)

1955 A Schulte, R Green (Aus), S Lowery

2005 C Wiemers, M Hensby (Aus), S Stricker

Starting at 10th hole

1300 B Estes, M Brown, D Wilson

1310 J Aber, H Tanihara (Japan), K Ferrie (Eng)

1320 M A Jimenez (Sp), T Pernice Jnr, T Clark (SA)

1330 S Elkington (Aus), D Toms, R Beem

1340 F Funk, S Cink, T Bjorn (Den)

1350 C Campbell, D Duval, R Goosen (SA)

1400 M Calcavecchia, L Donald (Eng), V Taylor

1410 M Campbell (NZ), C DiMarco, L Westwood (Eng)

1420 G McDowell (NIrl), A Baddeley (Aus), J J Henry

1430 P Mickelson, G Ogilvy (Aus), T Woods

1440 J Senden (Aus), S Verplank, N Dougherty (Eng)

1450 D Yrene, C Villegas (Col), B Faxon

1500 S Schneiter, B Dredge (Wal), B Crane

1805 W Austin, J Rose (Eng), C Thomas

1815 C Sullivan, J Bohn, S Dodd (Wal)

1825 Wes Short Jnr, H Stenson (Swe), C Riley

1835 R Philo Jnr, L Nelson, J Byrd

1845 O Browne, S O'Hair, D Chopra (Swe)

1855 N Fasth (Swe), P Casey (Eng), J Leonard

1905 J Maggert, K Triplett, R Karlsson (Swe)

1915 D Hart, I Poulter (Eng), N O'Hern (Aus)

1925 N Price (Zim), P Azinger, M Brooks

1935 S Ames (Can), C Couch, C Pettersson (Swe)

1945 B Quigley, B Evans, J Bickerton (Eng)

1955 P Broadhurst (Eng), J Haas, J Haas

2005 A Buckle (Aus), J Cranford, A Wall (Eng)