Garcia finished T4 at last week's Stanford St. Jude.
Marc Feldman/Getty Images
Wednesday, June 11, 2008

SAN DIEGO — Suddenly Sergio Garcia is smiling again. And not just because the putts are finally starting to drop, and he comes to Torrey Pines as the winner of the Players Championship. No, Sergio Garcia is smiling again because he has been watching TV, and Spain's soccer team just crushed Russia, 4-1, in the European Championship finals. Garcia's confidence and energy are back, and maybe his luck is too.

"Winning the Players was huge," he said before heading out to play his first practice round at the U.S. Open. "It gives you a lot of confidence winning on a tough course and probably the deepest field we play all year. It was a great victory."

Of course the secret to his first victory in three years was renewed faith in his putter and short game. "My confidence with my short game is greater than it's ever been," he said.

Where once there was fear on the greens, Garcia now says he can't wait to take his putter out of the bag. "It's a great feeling," he said. So once again Garcia is a hot player at the start of a major. But he still has to fend off questions about being the Best Player Never To Win A Major.

"I don't really care about that label," he said. "I don't think too much about it. There are others in a similar position to me — like Adam Scott. It's a work in progress."

To illustrate this point, Garcia said that he has learned lessons about himself over the years. "I have gotten to know myself better as a golfer and a person and can control myself better coming down the stretch," he said.

His performance at the Players seems to prove his point. "It felt like a major," he said. "I know it isn't, but when I was coming down the finishing holes and playing in the playoff, I felt just like I did at Carnoustie last year in the British Open."

Now all he has to do is translate that feeling into a major and change the result into a victory. "I have had my chances, so now I have to get to the next level and hopefully start winning majors." he said.

It is a message he has been trotting out for almost 10 years. But now, after the Players Championship, it sounds as if he finally believes he can do it.

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