The Opens 2014: Sergio Garcia looks set to wait a little longer for his turn

The Spaniard has yet to win a major and his 63rd attempt looks doomed by McIlroy’s form

Royal Liverpool

Poor Sergio Garcia. Meet the new boss; same as the old boss. First Tiger Woods splatted the Spaniard in his infamous all-yellow Tweetie Pie outfit in the final round of the 2006 Open here at Hoylake.

Now Garcia grinds to nine under par while Woods is stranded at three over, and along comes McIlroy finishing the third round at 16 under. What rotten luck for Garcia. “If Rory wasn’t 16-under, it would be really tight,” Garcia said. If my auntie had balls et cetera. Is Rory and good as Tiger in his pomp? “He’s definitely right up there,” Garcia said.

Oh Sergio, Sergio, wherefore art thou, Sergio? The Open, for him, is a tragic Shakespearean tale of star-crossed lovers. And, yet again, he is cast as in the lead role. Or at least vying for chief bridesmaid honours with Rickie Fowler, who is at 10 under.

Poor Sergio Garcia. He thinks he’s still in it. Well, sort of. Can he win from seven shots behind? “Uh, yeah. But not without help,” he said. “If he [McIlroy] shoots three under, I’ve got to shoot 10 under. If Rory plays the way he’s been playing, it’s difficult to see anybody catching him,” Garcia said. “But the only thing I can do is try to put a little pressure on him and see how he reacts.”

 

Garcia and the Open Championship have history. He lipped out with a putt to win it at the 18th in 2007 and then lost the play-off to Padraig Harrington and has six other top tens including Hoylake in 2006 when he shot 73 to Tiger’s 67. And no one will forget his first Open as a professional in 1999 when he shot 89, 83 as a 19-year-old emerging star at Carnoustie and cried in his mother’s arms.

Poor Garcia. He must have felt like crying again last night. Take McIlroy out of the equation and he said he would fancy his chances of having a run at getting his hands on that old Claret Jug ahead of Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Victor Dubuisson, Edoardo Molinari, Mattero Manassero and Adam Scott. But he, like them, is merely making up the chorus line for McIlroy’s star performance on the main stage.

Garcia needs a miracle – or a disaster to befall McIlroy. The Spaniard nearly got one but his Open luck was out again. He used to complain that Woods got all the easy tee times to benefit from the best of the weather. Yesterday, the R&A sent the players out in threeballs for the first time in 150 years because of the threat of thunderstorms. They never came. It stopped raining when McIlroy teed off. The apocalypse finally arrived 10 minutes after McIlroy had signed his scorecard. He may well have been blown off the course. Instead, he blew away his rivals with an imperious display of ball striking that Garcia sportingly had nothing but praise for. “If you are disappointed at somebody making birdies and eagles, then you’re not a good sportsman. What you do is say, ‘Well done.’ If somebody plays that well he deserves to be champion,” he said.

Garcia began his challenge like an 18-handicapper with a duck hook, a thrash from the jungle, a thinned wedge from one bunker to another and a bogey. He trudged off the green muttering under his breath like Muttley after being scolded by Dick Dastardly. But he’s in fine form this year, having won in Qatar and is certain to take his place in Europe’s Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles in September. He bounced back with birdies at the 2nd, 8th and 9th after firing trademark towering irons into Hoylake’s greens.

Read more: McIlroy soars on the wings of eagles
Toothless Tiger struggles to get back in swing
McIlroy and Clarke praise 'great' R&A decision

At the turn, he was nine under par and just three shots behind McIlroy. It was time to put some pressure on the Northern Irishman. But the Spaniard hooked another tee shot into the cabbage to throw away a birdie opportunity at the par-five 10th. Then he stabbed at a two-foot birdie putt on the 11th and stared in horror as it missed. He’d run out of gas. McIlroy stepped on the turbo charger.

“Vamos, Sergio,” came a yell from the crowd – a Scouse accent rather than a Spanish one. Garcia looked over and laughed. “Do it for Seve,” came the encore. Garcia was feeling the love from the British crowd.

The flamboyant Fowler, playing in his group, has become a fan-favourite too, and has shown a flair for links golf coming fifth at Royal St George’s in 2011 and 14th at St Andrews in 2010. He, like Garcia, is an Open champion in waiting. “Rickaaaay,” came a shout. It’s doubtful the Californian knows anything about Bianca, Eastenders and the Queen Vic. But with his pirate’s moustache and designer beard, he could get an acting job as a double for Johnny Depp. Or, for those of a certain age, Errol Flynn. Mind you, Fowler’s swash buckled, too, as McIlroy put everyone to the sword.

Poor Garcia. He is now 0 for 63 in the majors. Only Lee Westwood has a worse hard-luck story of those still striving to break their duck at 0 for 65. “The only thing I can do is keep putting myself in these situations,” Garcia said, “and hope one day that it will be my turn.”

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