Garcia gets first Tour win in two years
IRVING, Texas -- The victories have come slowly for Sergio Garcia since he made his first PGA Tour start as a pro at the Byron Nelson Championship five years ago.
After an opening 62 that helped him finish third in the '99 Nelson, the teenage Garcia was the runner-up that summer in the PGA Championship after a duel with Tiger Woods. He starred for Europe in the Ryder Cup.
The Spaniard was considered a rising star at 19 and seemed destined for countless victories.
At 24, he has retooled his swing. And he finally got his fourth PGA Tour victory Sunday in the latest Nelson.
"I definitely would have liked to have been a little better, more than anything, the way I started," Garcia said. "But when I turned pro, of course you hope for the best but you don't know what to expect. I definitely would have been happy the way things are now."
Garcia won on the PGA Tour for the first time in two years despite a closing 1-over 71. He lost his lead late, but made enough clutch pars to get into a playoff at 10-under 270, then won with a tap-in par on the first extra hole after Dudley Hart and Robert Damron faltered.
"Winning is always great," Garcia said. "Those are the little things that get you going a little bit."
Damron holed a 7-iron from the 15th fairway for eagle and shot a 66 to get into the playoff, just as he did three years ago when he won the Nelson on the fourth extra hole. Damron lagged his 50-foot putt to 4 feet at No. 18 the second time.
It was similar to a putt he had on the 18th in regulation, so he stepped up to it quickly -- and pulled it left.
"There was no point in reading it. I knew what it was doing," Damron said. "I just butchered it."
Hart closed with a 67 after birdies on three of the last five holes. He missed the fairway in the playoff, then hit into a terrible lie right of the green. He wound up with a double bogey after duffing a chip.
"I can't be disappointed," said Hart, whose day started with consecutive bogeys. "I rallied, I made some good putts when I needed to coming in, and hit some good shots."
The last three of Garcia's wins have come with Woods in the field. Next up is the Colonial, an event Woods bypasses and where Garcia got his first win three years ago.
Woods, who has been making his own adjustments lately, managed a late charge Sunday even though he hit just three fairways. He shot a 69 to finish one shot out of the playoff for the second straight week. He plans to play just once more before the U.S. Open, but is feeling better about his game.
"It is close. I'm showing signs of it," Woods said. "If I would just get just a little bit more consistent with some shots, I would have been all right."
Garcia became the first Byron Nelson winner in 11 years to fail to break par in the final round. Hart and Damron made sure he didn't even have to break par in the playoff.
The lead was gone when Garcia hit his tee shot at the 15th to the right near a small tree. He had to punch out on the 475-yard hole, and wound up with a bogey. Garcia missed a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-5 16 -- and a chance to regain the lead -- after missing the fairway and laying up.
Woods had consecutive birdies from short range to get to within two shots before failing to get up-and-down from the bunker on the 16th for birdie. After a 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th for one last chance, he missed the 18th fairway and had no chance for a tying birdie.
"It was frustrating I wasn't able to hit fairways," Woods said. "On top of that, I hit good shots that were landing in the fairway and running into the rough."
Notes: Garcia earned $1.04 million and gained 66 world ranking points, moving to No. 3 in the European standings for the Ryder Cup. ... Jerry Kelly, who played in the final group with Garcia after starting the day two strokes back, shot a 2-over 73 and tied for 11th. ... Defending champion Vijay Singh fell out of contention with a triple bogey at No. 4, when he took two shots from a fairway bunker. He also hit two shots into the water on No. 17 to take a quadruple-bogey 7. His closing 78 was his highest score in a regular PGA Tour event since a 79 in the final round of the 1997 Greater Greensboro Classic.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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