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The magic in Sergio Garcia's putter disappeared on Sunday. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
The magic in Sergio Garcia's putter disappeared on Sunday. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Open victory just wasn't meant to be, Garcia laments

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Sergio Garcia still can't believe the amazing turn of events that led to his playoff loss. This one hurt bad, he admitted afterward, as he struggled to digest all the big bounces and even bigger shots on an unforgettable Sunday at Carnoustie.

By Melanie Hauser, Contributor

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- He kept shaking his head and saying it wasn't meant to be.

All he needed was 18 pars.

Or to flush his 3-iron at the 72nd hole the way he'd done at the 12th. And 14th. And 16th.

Or to not have to wait 15 minutes to hit his approach into the 18th in regulation.

Or to have just one of those putts that kissed the hole to tip sideways and fall in. Not slide by.

Or to have an approach shot hit the pin and stop dead. Not fly 20 feet.

But he didn't.

On the day when he could have defined his career, Sergio Garcia fell victim. To Carnoustie Golf Links. To Padraig Harrington. And to himself.

Instead of stepping up and grabbing his first major title, Garcia watched another one slip away.

Three shots clear of Steve Stricker at the start of the day. Six shots clear of Harrington and a half-dozen others. Confident. Mature. Making everything in sight. Playing smart.

Runner-up in a playoff after 22 holes.

You must, someone offered, be bitterly disappointed.

"No, I'm thrilled," he said, not hiding his disgust. "I'm the happiest man in the world."

It wasn't a pretty picture.

Garcia slept on the 54-hole lead of a major for the first time in his career and didn't walk away with the Claret Jug. He played almost flawless golf for the first 54 holes and nothing went right on the next nine. He bogeyed three out of four holes in one stretch, lost the lead and had to play catch up.

He birdied 13 and 14 to pop back into it and, when Harrington opened the door with a two-balls-in-the Barry Burn double bogey at the 72nd hole, Garcia couldn't finish him off.

His 3-iron approach found the bunker, not the green. And his par putt? You guessed it. Slid right by the hole to send this 136th Open Championship into a four-hole playoff.

And in the playoff? Harrington birdied the first hole, Garcia bogeyed it out of the fairway bunker. Then he hit the pin on the next hole and two-putted for par. And another par. And another par.

Final playoff scoring? Harrington even, Garcia 1 over.

"It's funny," he said, "how some guys hit the pin or hit the pin and go to a foot. Mine hits the pin and goes 20 feet away."

Just not meant to be?

"You know what's the saddest thing about it?" he said. "It's not the first time. It's not the first time, unfortunately. So, I don't know, I'm playing against a lot of guys out there, more than the field."

Losing this one hurt. He wasn't about to let himself be the least bit at ease. There was not going to be any easy give-and-take. No sly smiles.

He wasn't happy and everyone knew it.

"Having to wait 15 minutes in the fairway (for Chris DiMarco and Paul McGinley to finish the 72nd hole) doesn't help when you're trying to win the British Open," he said. "But, you know, I still felt like I still don't know how that par putt missed. I'm still trying to ask myself, trying to find an answer on that.

"And then, I don't know, I should write a book on how to not miss a shot in the playoff and shoot 1 over. It's the it is way it is. It's guess it's not news in my life. I just have to move on and hopefully do better next time."

Yes, next time.

Garcia may drive us to distraction at times with his leaping and fist pumping, but he's just being his incorrigible self. And, in case you haven't noticed, that translates into a pretty strong record in Open Championships. Sunday's disappointment was his sixth top-10 finish in the last 11 Open Championships.

Yes, he missed the cuts in the year's first two majors. And, yes, he's 0-for-3 playing in the final group.

It's been eight years since he burst onto the scene at the PGA Championship at Medinah and finished second. Since then, he's added two top-8s at the Masters, two top-4s at the U.S. Open and three top-10s at the PGA Championship. He's won 15 times -- six of them on the PGA TOUR -- and he's been a key to three European Ryder Cup wins.

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He expected himself to take the next step Sunday afternoon. He expected to be standing on the 18th with the Claret Jug, not the runner-up's Silver Salver. Which Garcia held like it was loser's platter.

It's not easy to hold the lead at a major for three days. No one, but perhaps Tiger Woods, can do it with ease. But Garcia was still talking a good game Saturday night, expecting a quiet night and his mom's home cooking.

The first tee Sunday was a little different.

"I was definitely a little bit nervous at the beginning and it's understandable," he said. "If you're trying to win an Open Championship and you're leading and you're not nervous, then you must be dead."

It's what happens afterward he can't comprehend. The missed putts. The bounces. The waits.

"But I don't know how I managed to do these things," he said. "It seems to me like every time I get in this kind of position I have no room for error."

No major winner does.

Harrington came from 6 back and a double bogey on the 72nd hole to win this Open. Angel Cabrera and Zach Johnson both came from behind -- almost from nowhere -- to win their majors in 2007. Tiger ... Phil Mickelson ... Ernie Els. They made their majors happen.

Maybe, as Garcia said, this one wasn't meant to be.

But maybe the next time, he'll think about this one and finally make it happen.

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