Garcia backs up talk with playoff win over Toms

Updated: January 6, 2003, 5:24 PM ET
Associated Press

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- The grandiose goals that Sergio Garcia set for himself made it clear he thought he was capable of toppling Tiger Woods.

What it means
With all the talk about the young guns arriving on the PGA Tour, the "veteran" young gun showed them how to get it done on Sunday. Charles Howell, Ty Tryon, Luke Donald and others may be getting the attention, but Sergio Garcia is getting the wins -- in bunches.

Garcia won for the fifth time since last May, charging from four shots back with a 64 which included eight birdies and an eagle. And when it mattered most, Garcia calmly made birdies on the 72nd hole and in sudden death for the win.

The victory puts Garcia in the final twosome during the first round at next year's Mercedes as the first qualifier for the tournament. And by beating the best players on the PGA Tour, it should bump him even higher than sixth in the next World Rankings. He did it with distance off the tees, deadly irons and superb putting down the stretch. Now if only he could stop that irritating waggle.

Garcia also showed the mark of a true champion, shooting a lower round each day of the tournament (73-69-68-64).

David Toms showed his 2001 season was no fluke and that he will be a factor again this season -- despite pressure to perform which has never been placed on him in the past. And Kenny Perry also showed his revitalized game of 2001 is back for another solid year.

Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods both finished in the top 10 for the fourth consecutive year at Kapalua, although Woods was never a factor -- a regular happening on the PGA Tour since the start of last summer.

Bob Estes' consistent week allowed him to sneak into a tie for 10th, extending his string of top-10 finishes to seven consecutive PGA Tour starts.

Greg Robertson
ESPN.com golf editor

The youngster certainly came out swinging.

Garcia made a pair of 10-foot birdie putts on the 18th hole Sunday, the first one to get into a playoff with PGA champion David Toms and the second one to win the Mercedes Championships in the first PGA Tour event of the year.

"You can't dream of a better way to start the year," Garcia said.

His ultimate goal is to win the money title on both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, which no one has ever done. Of course, that means ending Woods' three-year reign in America.

When the final putt fell, Garcia dropped his putter and raised his arms, jubilant as ever. Tournament officials approached the 18th green in Garcia's new Mercedes SL500 Sport car, but the bigger prize is his $720,000 check.

"I'm leading the money list," Garcia said. "When I get old I can say to my nephews, 'I was the money leader -- for at least one week.' "

Maybe longer, especially since he will go over to the Sony Open in Honolulu next week and compete in another $4 million tournament while Woods heads to New Zealand.

Garcia closed with a 9-under 64 and finished at 18-under 274. It reminded him of his victory in South Africa in November, when he closed with a 9-under 63 and beat Ernie Els in a playoff.

For Toms, it was nearly a repeat of his PGA Championship victory, when he laid up on the par-4 18th and made par to beat Phil Mickelson.

Unable to reach the downhill, 633-yard closing hole on the Plantation Course in two shots, he laid up and then hit wedge into about 10 feet for a chance to win in regulation. With a steady mist falling under cloudy skies, the putt didn't have enough speed and broke away at the last moment.

"I felt like I was going to make it. I was convinced I was going to make it and I was going to win the tournament right there," Toms said. "I was shocked that I left it short because when I looked up halfway, I thought it was in."

Toms birdied four of the last six holes to shoot 67. He knew he was at a disadvantage going into the playoff because of Garcia's length.

"That's not a medium-hitter's hole," Toms said.

Sure enough, Garcia's approach shot with a 3-wood came up 30 yards short to set up an easy pitch, which he ran past 10 feet -- in almost exactly the spot where Toms had his birdie putt in regulation. Toms hit a 3-wood that landed 142 yards away in the rough, hit wedge to 30 feet and made par.

Both of them were in a playoff at the last PGA Tour event -- a four-man playoff at the Tour Championship won by Mike Weir.

Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia birdied the 18th hole in regulation to force a playoff, then birdied it again in sudden death for the win.
"Don't worry," Garcia told him. "I think this time, one of us will win."

Garcia won for the third time on tour in his last 11 events, and he became the first player since Woods to win in his first appearance at the Mercedes Championships.

Woods had enough money to win the money title on both sides of the Atlantic in 1999 and 2000, but he wasn't a European Tour member. Garcia plans to play the minimum 15 events on the PGA Tour and 11 events in Europe.

"I never had a doubt I could do it," he said.

Woods, who started the final round 10 strokes behind, closed with a 65 and finished in a tie for 10th, seven strokes behind Garcia and Toms. He has never finished worse than 10th in his six season-opening tournaments.

"Very good start" to the season, Woods said. "It's just unfortunate for me that I didn't putt that well the last two days with the wind howling."

Woods boarded his private plane for New Zealand to play in the New Zealand Open, despite the fact a letter containing cyanide and threatening to disrupt the tournament was sent to the U.S. Embassy in New Zealand.

Kenny Perry, who shared the 54-hole lead with Scott Verplank, needed eagle on the last hole to get into the playoff but hit his drive into the left rough. He holed a meaningless 40-footer for birdie and closed with a 69 to finish at 275.

Garcia started the final round four strokes back, but wasted little time getting into contention on a breezy, cloudy afternoon off the west coast of Maui.

The wind was not nearly as fierce as it was Saturday, turning the final round into such a shootout that six players had at least a share of the lead at one point.

Garcia nearly drove the downhill, 398-yard sixth hole for an easy birdie, then hit his approach into the 521-yard ninth to about 2 feet for a tap-in eagle. He holed a slick, 12-footer birdie putt on the 10th to take the lead at 15 under.

Chris DiMarco, playing in the group behind, made birdie on No. 9 to join Garcia, but DiMarco played the back nine in 38. Verplank disappeared early by hitting into the canyon along No. 5 and taking double-bogey.

Defending champion Jim Furyk charged into a share of the lead at one point, but his 65 left him three strokes short.

Toms refused to go away.

Twice he dropped out of the race, but only momentarily. He atoned for a bogey on the par-5 fifth hole by pitching it for eagle on No. 9. Then, when he was two strokes off the lead with six holes to play, he birdied four of the next five holes.

He needed one more birdie to get his year started in style, although he had few complaints.

"I had a chance to win. I had a real good chance to win," he said.


Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press

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