JACK Nicklaus calls it “bad timing”. Sergio Garcia disagrees. He is prepared to hold up his hands when beaten by a better man.
But, at the same time, he will be hammering at the door in the hope the placings will be reversed between him and Rory McIlroy this weekend.
McIlroy’s back-to-back victories in the Open Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational both came at the Spaniard’s expense. At Hoylake, Garcia chased the Northern Irishman hard in the final round but then surrendered a three-shot lead to him in Akron.
Far from being disheartened, though, Garcia is feeling upbeat heading into the 96th US PGA Championship. Indeed, while many believe McIlroy’s name is already on the Wanamaker Trophy for a second time, Garcia is hoping his good form can help him steal the man of the moment’s thunder as he bids for a first major at the age of 34.
“I can see what Jack is referring to in a way,” admitted Garcia about remarks made by Nicklaus in the build-up to the season’s final major at Valhalla. “But, at the end of the day, I can only play to the best of my ability. I’ve shown recently that I can play really well but, if somebody else plays better, the only thing you can do is congratulate him and move on.”
Reflecting on his two runner-up finishes in the past three weeks, Garcia added: “[At Hoylake] I was coming from behind. I was attacking. I was trying to catch up.
“I could maybe have putted a little bit better on Sunday, when I struggled with the speed of the greens, but I always try to look at the positive side and I’d rather finish second and lose than be 50th and not have a chance.”
Garcia’s resurgence has coincided with him finding happiness off the golf course. His girlfriend, Katharina Boehm, caddied for him when he won in Thailand last December and it has been onwards and upwards for Garcia ever since.
“I feel like things around me are right where I want them to be and that obviously puts me in a nicer situation when I go on to the golf course,” he said, smiling.
“Don’t get me wrong. It’s not just good playing because of happiness. It’s work and confidence as well. I’ve had some really nice things happen to me and all those things put together create happiness and good play.”
In 15 previous appearances in the season’s final major, Garcia has twice finished second – to Tiger Woods in 1999 then Padraig Harrington nine years later.
“It’s good to see Rory playing well as he’s got a lot of talent and it seems like he is less afraid of hitting driver [than Woods],” said Garcia of his current nemesis. “But the only thing I can do is keep improving, keep getting better and, when we’re both up there again, make it tougher or impossible for him to beat me.”