No. 2 Garcia now aims at major win and Tiger

No. 2 Garcia now aims at major win and Tiger

Sergio Garcia after defeating Oliver Wilson, foreground, in a playoff.
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

SHANGHAI, China (AP) — Sergio Garcia’s playoff victory over Oliver Wilson in the HSBC Champions gave the Spaniard a career-high No. 2 world ranking.

He also has some unfinished business after passing Phil Mickelson in the rankings – winning his first major and, even more difficult, challenging Tiger Woods for No. 1.

“I think my next goal is trying to win a major,” Garcia said Monday after making a 7-foot birdie on the second playoff hole – the par-5 18th – after Wilson missed a 10-footer. “Well, we’ve been trying for quite a while.

“Attacking No. 1 probably depends a little bit on how much he takes off and if I keep playing well,” Garcia added. “It’s possible, mainly because he’s been injured. … I’ve never been this close to No. 1, so it’s exciting to be there.”

This has probably been Garcia’s best season, due partly to improved putting.

He won The Players Championship and his home-course Castellon Masters, and finished second or tied for second in three events. One was the PGA Championship – one of the four majors.

Garcia’s putting held up Monday at the Sheshan Golf Club on the outskirts of China’s financial capital.

He forced the playoff by holing a 5-foot birdie on 18 to finish with a 4-under 68 and match Wilson at 14-under 274. The Englishman, a surprise star for Europe in the Ryder Cup, reached the playoff by saving his par on 18 with a 7-footer for a 70.

“It’s been a very solid year,” Garcia said. “I had some hard losses this year, but we came back strong and we’re finishing the year very nicely.”

“When you get into a sudden-death playoff, you have to hit the right shot at the right time, but you have to get lucky at the same time. It’s happened to me a couple of times this year where I thought I won the playoff and I wound up losing.”

Wilson is winless on the European tour, but has eight second-place finishes. He gained attention at the Ryder Cup, teaming with Henrik Stenson to beat Mickelson and Anthony Kim in foursomes. But he’s fed up finishing No. 2.

“It’s just getting to a stage where second is not enough anymore,” he said. “There was a time when I was pleased to be finishing there, and it’s gone.”

Mickelson, the 2007 champion, shot a 73 to tie for eighth in the $5 million tournament, five strokes behind the leaders. He is now third in the world rankings.

Peter Hanson (66) and Geoff Ogilvy (70) finished a stroke off the lead, while Stenson (71) was three behind.

Garcia and Wilson were the survivors on the back nine, where four players – Garcia, Wilson, Hanson and Ogilvy – were tied at 13 under during the closing holes.

Rain washed out play on Friday, slowed the start on Saturday and forced the Monday finish. Wilson played two holes of the final round on Sunday, and Garcia got in three before darkness stopped play.

The event was the first of the 2009 European tour season, which will end next November in the Dubai World Championship. The European tour also rebranded the Order of Merit – the season money title – as the Race to Dubai. That tournament will have a $10 million purse with another $10 million available in bonus money.

The HSBC is being suggested as a possible World Golf Championships event. Ten of the world’s top-20 were in this year’s field.

Though the rain delays made for a clumsy finish, Garcia wasn’t complaining.

“You have to deal with it,” he said. “You can’t do anything about it so you just stay patient.”

That patience was rewarded. He earned $833,000 and a career-high ranking with the victory.

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