NORTON -- It wasn’t like Sawgrass in May when Sergio Garcia had his Tin Cup moment on the island hole, plopping one ball into the water and watching the next roll back in en route to a killer quadruple bogey. This time it was a slow leak, the transmission fluid seeping out of him for a couple of hours before he could plug it.
“I just didn’t play well, obviously,” Garcia acknowledged toward dusk on Monday after he shot 2 over par and ended up in a four-way tie for fourth place at the Deutsche Bank Championship after starting the day two strokes ahead. “Unfortunately, I just didn’t feel it today. I just wasn’t comfortable. I wasn’t able to trust myself as much as I did the first three days.”
His first three days were loose and lovely, a 65-64-65 that tied the 54-hole tournament mark of 19 under that Louis Oosthuizen set last year. The finale was arrhythmic and awkward, with two bogeys on the first four holes and four on the front nine. A trio of them — on the par-5 second, the par-4 fourth, and the par-5 seventh, came on three of the weekend’s easiest four holes where Garcia had been a combined 7-under coming in. “I had a couple of wayward shots that didn’t give me confidence,” he said.
Meanwhile his playing partner Henrik Stenson was shooting up the landscape with three consecutive birdies on the front en route to a 5 under for the day and 22 under for the tournament, two strokes better than Steve Stricker. “Henrik’s a good friend of mine and he deserves it,” saluted Garcia. “He’s been playing well all year. I would have liked to play a little better and make it tough on him.”
Garcia’s best chance had slipped away at the Players Championship, where he was tied for the lead with Tiger Woods when he teed up at 17 and ended up tied for eighth with a 76. This one got away from him much earlier. “This could have been a breakout win for him,” observed NBC analyst Johnny Miller. “But it is a breakdown performance right now.”
An errant drive put Garcia in the woods on the fourth hole and he had to scramble for a bogey. After he three-putted the second and ninth and made the turn at 39, the day and the tournament had gotten away. Another lengthy cloudburst that would postpone play until Tuesday might have provided a reprieve and it never came. “Just one of those days when you don’t have it,” Garcia shrugged.
Stenson, his former Ryder Cup teammate, could empathize. He led the Scottish Open going into the final day but couldn’t finish and watched the title go to Phil Mickelson. “[Garcia] had a horrible start,” said Stenson. “We’ve all been there. He’s been there before. I’ve been there. Everyone that’s out here has been in that situation. It’s a tough day.”
Garcia pulled it back together on the back nine, stringing together four straight pars and bouncing back from a bogey on 14 after a flyaway drive with a birdie on 15. “Some day, baby, some day,” shouted a bystander. Garcia has had only one of those days in the last five years, a triumph in last year’s Wyndham that clinched him a place on what would be Europe’s “miracle” Ryder Cup squad.
His consolation prize yesterday was that he finished with a flourish with two pars and two birdies. “I’m happy I was able to play the last four holes well and salvage something from the round,” Garcia said. His best shot of the day was the penultimate one, a 41-yard pitch that came within two feet of an eagle on the par-5 18th. “It would have been nice to finish with an eagle,” mused Garcia, who did it on Saturday. “Overall, it’s been a good week. Very, very positive things from the first three days.”
The fourth one, though, is for the money and the memories. “It’s always tough to lose when you’re leading,” offered Stenson. “That happens. It’s part of the game. We’ve all been there. It will come back.”John Powers can be reached at email@example.com.