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Garcia struggles in Woods' spotlight

6/17/2002

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- More than anywhere else, this was where Sergio Garcia ached to be. In the final pairing of the final round of the U.S. Open with the world's greatest player -- the player he one day hopes to become.

"It's certainly what I've been driving to prove to myself for awhile," said the 22-year-old Garcia after shooting a 67 on Saturday to draw within four strokes of Tiger Woods. "Unfortunately, it always seemed like I will miss the last putt or finish with a bogey and I will be just short of doing that almost every time.

"But today I made that putt on the last (hole) and I'm really looking forward to it, whatever happens."

On Sunday, it didn't happen for Garcia -- again. He made four bogeys on the first 12 holes and never -- despite two bogeys from Woods to start the round -- seemed to truly enter the fray.

Garcia finished the day with a 4-over-par 74, six shots behind Woods, who has now won seven of the last 11 majors.

"You miss a couple of putts at the beginning and everything gets tougher," Garcia said. "The hole gets smaller."

What was it like seeing Woods bogey the first two holes and not being able to respond?

Garcia sighed deeply. "It was frustrating. He three-putted one and two ... those are the things that can make you win and lose a tournament."

In 1999, Garcia had his nearest brush with a major title. He led the 1999 PGA at Medinah after the first round and was playing a pair behind Woods on the final day. He trailed Woods by two strokes with three to play when he hit the shot that framed his youthful exuberance.

Garcia, eyes closed, hit a six-iron off the root of a tree on the 16th hole and raced into the fairway to see if the ball made it safely on the green. It did, and Garcia had entered our golf consciousness.

That was less than three years ago and Garcia -- the age of the average graduating college senior is now a veteran of 15 major tournaments.

He's still looking for his first win, however -- and he's looking to play well in the final round of the U.S. Open. Last year at Southern Hills, Garcia shot 77 after entering the day in third place.

This year, it was 74 after entering in second.

"I tried as hard as I could," Garcia said. "I've got to put myself back in there and do better. I feel confident enough. I know I'll be up there. I'm just looking forward to get better. It's just a matter of time."