BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Sergio Garcia gets so pumped up by the Ryder Cup that he steers clear of sharp objects (say, Ian Poulter’s hair) so he won’t pop. The Players Championship winner and Ryder Cup stud is bound to be the first name on the European team sheet and a shoo-in for the matches next month at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky, right?
Not so fast. Garcia enters the PGA Championship on the wrong side of the Ryder Cup cut line, with time running out to make the team on points. And his would-be captain isn’t prepared to guarantee Garcia a seat on the plane.
“Don’t assume anything in life,” said Nick Faldo, who would rather not have to use one of his two wildcard picks on Sergio.
Garcia said he and Faldo have been in touch, but there had been no
indication from his captain that the Spaniard would definitely make the team. “I don’t even want to think about it,” Garcia said at Oakland Hills. “I’ve just got to play well this week and that will take care of itself. If I don’t get back in, I’ll have to keep working.”
Garcia was unbeaten in racking up 4 1/2 points on the Europeans’ powerhouse 2004 team at Oakland Hills (they won 18 1/2 to 9 1/2), so he’s one of several Euros basking in happy memories this week. But his first practice round revealed a course much longer and tougher than he remembered.
“They’ve added length, the rough is thicker, and the bunkers are deeper,”
Garcia said of the 7,395-yard, par-70 course. “I pretty much wore my 6-iron out. It seemed like I was hitting 6-iron on every hole. That’s not the way it was in the Ryder Cup. We are further away from the greens. If you miss a fairway, instead of hitting 9-irons and 8- irons, you’re hitting 6-irons from this rough, and it becomes a lot tougher.”
Garcia said the par 3s are some of the toughest he’s seen all year. From the back tee on the 257-yard ninth, Garcia was short of the green with a 5-wood. He said the 191-yard 13th will demand a 6- to 8-iron, while the 238-yard 17th will have him reaching for anything from a 5-iron to 5-wood.
Still, as tough as the Monster is, Garcia believes it’s less scary than a British Open.
“It’s tougher to play a British Open than a PGA or a U.S. Open because the weather can change dramatically,” he said. “These kinds of courses are very demanding, but the variety of shots that you have to hit at a British Open is greater. At the British we were hitting 5-irons from 120 yards,” he added, laughing. “That doesn’t happen very often here in the U.S.”