CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Over the next few majors, keep an eye on Sergio Garcia. He took this loss in the British Open very hard.
After years of being heralded as a future major winner and coming oh-so-close, plenty of people, including Garcia, figured it was finally his time at Carnoustie.
The time did seem right. At 27, he is older, smarter, more mature. A wizard with an iron or a driver in his hand, only his putter had been holding him back.
He no sooner goes to the belly putter two weeks ago than he shoots a 65 in the first round of the British Open and holds the lead for three straight days. Unfortunately for Garcia, he couldn’t hold it for four.
In my experience, when this kind of heartbreaking defeat occurs, players have one of two reactions: They either use the experience as scar tissue to harden them, make them stronger or they let it pretty much destroy them.
Padraig Harrington, another almost major winner until Sunday, was quite candid in his press conference afterward. He said if he had let this one slip away, he’s not sure he would have been able to continue playing competitive.
It’s hard to know what the long-term fallout will be on Garcia, but his immediate was to be, frankly, petulant, brooding.
When an R&A official opened his press conference by asking him to address the disappointment he surely must feel, Garcia was sarcastic. “No, I’m thrilled,” he said.
After that, he went on to blame all manner of things for his loss. He got bad breaks, he got held up to long when two grounds crew workers took too long to rake a bunker, he had putts that should have gone in but lipped out.
At one point he even hinted that somebody, or something – the gods or maybe a even higher – was conspiring to keep him from winning a major.
When somebody asked about his shot during the play-off that hit the pin at the 16th , Garcia said, “It’s funny how some guys hit the pin and go a foot. Mine hits the pin and goes 20 feet away.”
When somebody else asked Garcia if he thought maybe it just wasn’t meant to be, he said, “I don’t know, I’m playing against a lot of guys out there, more than the field.”
Finally, when somebody asked him about the pressure of owning the lead for three days, Garcia said, “It seems like every time I get in this kind of position I have no room for error.”
Well, duh. Even I know that’s why closing the deal in a major is umpteen times harder than doing it at, say, the Booz Allen, where he last did it.
The one guy that Garcia never pointed the finger of blame at was himself. He can talk all he wants about bad breaks, but the fact is he started the day with a three shot lead and couldn’t protect it.
As the weather in Carnoustie cleared Sunday afternoon and guys all around him were going low, Garcia could do no better than 73, 2-over, when it mattered most. Harrington shot 67 and came and got him, plain and simple.
Until Garcia can look himself in the mirror and admit that, he’ll never win a major.