Garcia still searching for major victory

Once promising golfer has stumbled since close call in 1999

The Associated PressJuly 16, 2009 

  • Where: Turnberry, Scotland

    Time: 7 a.m.

    TV: TNT

— Ten years after a teenage Sergio Garcia turned pro and almost caught Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship, the Spaniard is approaching his 30th birthday and still looking for his first major title.

Garcia came within a shot of Woods at Medinah in 1999 after a stunning recovery shot that suggested he would soon join the American in the list of multiple major winners.

Since then, he has watched rival after rival take home winner's trophies.

Garcia was runner-up to Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie two years ago and tied for second behind the Irishman at last year's PGA Championship at Oakland Hills. Now, he's sometimes being labeled the best player not to win a major.

"Am I? I don't know. I guess you have to look at someone's career and see how they've done in majors and everything," said Garcia, who will try again when he tees off today in the British Open. "I couldn't really answer that question."

"I don't really care [about the label]," he added, then revised his statement. "I would love to get rid of it, yes."

Taught by his father, Victor, Garcia has been playing golf since he was 3 years old, and won a club title at 12. As a teenager, he won 19 amateur events as well as one pro competition.

He made the cut in 12 of the 18 European Tour events he played before turning pro and, carrying the nickname "El Nino," showed all the signs that he would be winning majors before he was much into his 20s.

It just hasn't happened. Garcia has now played 40 majors without a triumph.

"We all have a chance of winning a major. I've had a couple," he said. "It's just a matter of seeing if happens at that time or who you go against. Unfortunately my chance in '99, it was against the best player in the world [Woods] and I came up a little short. But I'm still working hard to get that first major and keep going from there and that's the goal."

Still, Garcia says he is happy with his accomplishments so far -- seven tournament victories on the PGA Tour and six on the European, including this season's HSBC Championship in Shanghai where he beat Oliver Wilson in a playoff.

"Not many people can say they have been the No. 2 player in the world at their sport," he said. "There's a lot of people out there in the world. It's not that easy to get to that spot. So I'm pretty happy with that."

And Garcia isn't going to blame bad luck for his major title drought.

"There are moments when you feel that I have been a little but unlucky. But more than anything I've just come to play against some guys that have just raised their game and played amazing in the last round, or last four of five holes, when they needed to," he said.

"The most important thing for me is at least having a chance, giving yourself an opportunity. The guy that is finishing 15th or 40th, he doesn't even have one shot. I know they say that second is the first loser but I'd rather be the first loser than the 39th loser."

The Spaniard said he likes the links courses used for the British Open and has huge support in Scotland. He first played Turnberry in 1996 in the British Amateur, which he won at Muirfield in '98 before turning pro the following year.

"I'm looking forward to doing well and hopefully win one here soon. That would be quite an experience," he said. "We all have good breaks and bad breaks. It's just a case of getting them at the right time. Unfortunately for me it hasn't happened yet, but I'm going to keep giving myself a chance to make sure that it happens."

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