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Despite watching another chance at his major slip away at Carnoustie, Sergio Garcia is still smiling. (Photo: Getty Images)
Despite watching another chance at his major slip away at Carnoustie, Sergio Garcia is still smiling. (Photo: Getty Images)

His crash at Carnoustie behind him, Garcia ready for his time

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No one would have blamed him had he tossed his clubs into the Barry Burn and walked away from the game. But Sergio Garcia says he's recovered from his crushing loss at Carnoustie, and is ready to shed the dreaded best-player-never-to-have-won-a-major label.

By Helen Ross, Chief of Correspondents

TULSA, Okla. -- He had a putt to win the 136th Open Championship.

Granted, Sergio Garcia didn't make it, and Padraig Harrington went on to win their four-hole playoff. But the young Spaniard gave himself the chance to make history, so there were many positives for him to take away from Carnoustie.

"I didn't win the British Open, you know, Padraig did, and he deserved it," Garcia said. "He played very, very well all week. But I was the only one that had the winning putt in regulation. And to me, you know, that means a lot.

"I think overall it was a great experience to be up in the lead all week long. I think I learned a lot from it, and I actually had a winning putt, which I hit a great putt; unfortunately, it didn't go in."

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So the Claret Jug will have to wait. But Garcia enters this week's PGA Championship among the favorites to win that big silver Wanamaker Trophy and become the season's fourth first-time major champion.

He's put the disappointment of the 18th hole at Carnoustie behind him. He went home to his family in Spain. He played tennis with friends. He went to the beach. By the following Thursday, though, Garcia was back on the practice range.

"I managed to get through it," he said candidly. "(I) just tried to get all of the positives out of it, and there were a lot of positives. I had a lot of nice calls from friends and family.

"(I) tried to get ready for this week and (I'm) hoping that I can get myself as good of a chance as I gave myself at Carnoustie."

As Garcia's father, Victor, told him that Sunday evening, the 136th Open Championship simply wasn't his time. He's come close in majors before, with 12 top-10 finishes in 34 starts as a pro, and he'll have other opportunities. Learn from this, and be ready.

"He almost had tears in his eyes, but he told me, you know, 'You did all you could. You did everything right. Unfortunately it just wasn't meant to happen,'" Garcia recalled. "The end of the day, that's all you can really do."

The only thing Garcia would have done differently that Sunday is hit his par putt on the 72nd hole a tad further right. Had it sneaked into the hole, he would have been a wire-to-wire champion. As it was, he handled the suffocating pressure of contention extremely well.

"I stayed within myself throughout the whole week," Garcia said. "I was very calm all week, very confident with myself, very confident with my game. I stuck to my game plan. I felt that was the best game plan for me. That's what got me to a winning position.

"So, you know, I think, as I said before, there were a lot of positives, and just got to do the same thing this week, play within myself and hopefully I'll have a shot at winning the PGA."

Garcia comes to Southern Hills mentally refreshed and with momentum after that closing 67 he shot Sunday on Firestone's extremely difficult South Course in the final round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.

Garcia likes the course, which he feels compares favorably with Colonial Country Club, where he won his first PGA TOUR event. He tied for 12th when the U.S. Open was played at Southern Hills in 2001, as well.

Garcia is also "quite comfortable with my game, at the moment, so that also helps."

He would like nothing better than to get rid of the "best-player-never-to-have-won-a-major" label he came so close to shedding at Carnoustie two weeks ago.

Phil Mickelson knows how Garcia feels. He went 0-42 in majors as a pro before winning the 2004 Masters, but he now has won three of the last 14. The hardest thing, Mickelson said, were the never-ending questions from the media.

"I believed, just as Sergio believes, it's just a matter of time," Mickelson said. "He's too good a player for it not to happen. So I certainly felt that way. It was just a matter of time. It took more time than I had hoped.

"Honestly, the hardest thing about it was coming in (the media center), I think. I felt, or always believed and never really wondered if I would ever win one. I knew I would. I just didn't know when. I think he feels the same way."

Garcia agrees. He has an unerring belief in himself and boundless talent. The 27-year-old has won six times on the PGA TOUR and 10 more international events. He's already had five top-10s this season, including another second a THE PLAYERS Championship.

All of that will work in his favor should Garcia get into contention again at Southern Hills.

"Like I said before, to be on the lead at the Open for all four days, I think that is really going to help me in the future and be a lot more calm, be a lot more within myself when I get in that position," Garcia said.

"So I don't have a doubt that it will eventually happen. It's just a matter of giving myself chances, and I'll definitely give myself a lot of them. I feel
I've always said it, like I should have won at least more than one by now, but it hasn't happened yet.

"The only thing I can do is keep putting myself in that position and it will happen sometime."

And there's no time like the present.

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