Huggan On Sergio

John Huggan kicks off the inevitalbe series of stories on Sergio returning the site of his near-PGA win in 1999, with a column on the 26-year-old's career.

Perhaps understandably in one so young - and so spoiled - Garcia has not always reacted well to adversity. Like all leading golfers, he is a convenient excuse-maker and rarely accepts responsibility for anything, a trait that is enhanced by the fact that he surrounds himself with people whose sole purpose seems to be massaging his sizeable ego. Then there is his selective memory when he talks about not getting good breaks: at times, this less-than-attractive characteristic has slipped into something not far short of paranoia.

Take the aforementioned US Open four years ago. After completing his second-round 74 in almost constant heavy rain, Garcia launched into an astonishing tirade against the organisers and, significantly, his biggest rival. But it is no secret in golfing circles that Woods and Garcia are unlikely to be seen going out for dinner any time soon. Friends they are not.

"If Tiger had been out there, I think it would have been called [off]," Garcia said bitterly. "There was a moment when not even the squeegees were going to help. I really felt like we should have taken a 45-minute break. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't easy this morning, but it was almost impossible this afternoon.

"If you get the luck of getting the good side of the draw, like somebody seems to do in these tournaments, and you're the best player in the world and you make lots of putts, everything works. It's tough to beat a guy when things are going like that."

All of which sounds more than a little sad, never mind defeatist, from one so naturally gifted. Then again, to his credit, Garcia is apparently unafraid of hard work. While the putts have continued to slide by, he has done much to improve his distinctive swing, and today he is perhaps the best driver of a ball among the elite players.

And perhaps just as significantly, the multiple re-gripping saga that used to precede every shot has mercifully been eliminated.

This perspective from Peter Kostis may get the Titleist Golf Products Design Consultant back on non-speaking terms with Tiger:

"Tee to green Sergio compares more than adequately with Tiger," Kostis observes. "He is a very solid ball-striker. He's not better than Tiger, but he doesn't have to play away from his driver. In fact, he is a beautiful driver of the ball.

"I don't see any weaknesses in his full swing. That's his greatest strength. He could certainly get a little better around the greens. And he could certainly get a little better on the greens.

"His temperament is interesting. Let's face it: he is Spanish, and he has a Spanish temperament. He fits the stereotype. His frustrations with the putter cause him some emotional stress, but if he gets that under control, there isn't anything he can't do."