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Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Published: Wednesday, 4/9/2003

Sergio seeks major results with minor change

AUGUSTA, Ga. - It seems as though he has been around forever but, admit it, you have socks stuffed in the back of the drawer that are older than Sergio Garcia.

He was a scratch golfer at age 13, won the European Amateur at 15, played in the British Open at 16, triumphed in a pro tournament at 17.

Garcia has career earnings of $7.2 million on the PGA Tour, which doesn't include all the Euros and pounds and rials and yen he has banked.

He has played on two Ryder Cup teams and will make his fifth appearance this week in the Masters at Augusta National.

He is 23 years old.

So what's the hurry? Who cares that he hasn't won a major championship?

Of course, Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie and countless others exhibited that same frame of mind at age 23, and now, teetering on the brink of middle age, are still waiting.

Sergio isn't about to panic, however, which is a good thing, since there seems to be no reason to expect his breakthrough to come in the 67th Masters, which begins tomorrow.

Garcia has missed cuts in four of his last five tournaments, combining PGA and European tour events.

There is good reason for this.

Coming off of a season during which Garcia was the only golfer to post top-10 finishes in all four major championships, the young Spaniard decided a month or so ago to alter his swing.

Sound familiar? Changing things in the pursuit of perfection when few others noted imperfection?

Tiger Woods did it in 1998, a year after winning his first Masters and after ascending to No. 1 in the world golf rankings. The initial result, by his standards, was a “lean” year in '98, but the aftermath has been astounding with 41 victories worldwide, including seven major titles, since the start of the 1999 season.

Certainly, Sergio would take the same results. Heck, he'd take a sliver's worth of the same results.

Garcia's old, fairly compact swing included a slight lag, or pause, just before accelerating into his downswing, wrists still cocked before, suddenly, releasing and whipping through the ball. He hit it a ton, but only sometimes on target.

“I used to aim quite a bit left,” he said. “Now I'm trying to go a little more in line up to the top, more parallel, and make the swing a little longer. That helps me reduce the lag a little, aiming more towards the target and getting more in line. I'll still have the lag, but it's smaller and I'll be able to control it better. It's a big change and it's not easy.”

Ask him why he made the change and he says something about it being “the right time because the other swing was getting a little away from me.”

More likely, it is Woods who is getting away from him.

Or he might have said that the natives are getting restless.

In Spain, all golfing accomplishments are measured against Severiano Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal.

Seve won the first of his two Masters in 1980 at the age of 23 years, 4 days. Olazabal also made his mark at Augusta, with two wins and a total of six top-10 finishes in 15 appearances, to date.

Following in those footsteps is a topic Garcia rarely warms to, and yesterday was no exception.

“I don't worry about that too much. I am a different player and different person, so I try my own things. I know what I expect of myself, and that's good enough for me.”

A different player and person, perhaps, but the goals are no different.

“It will be great,” Garcia said of capturing a major championship, “and the sooner it comes the better it's going to be.”

That's why he is changing his swing.

That's why he is tinkering with an inconsistent putting stroke.

They are investments in the future because Garcia knows there is only one way to step even briefly out of Woods' shadow and into the shoes of Seve and Olazabal.

Win a major.



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