Like I’ve been trying to tell my colleagues, the PGA Tour is incredibly dramatic without Tiger Woods and I think perhaps even moreso, especially the major championships.
On Sunday, Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington dueled all the way to the end in the 90th PGA Championship at perhaps the toughest golf course in the World in Oakland Hills. Ben Curtis and Henrik Stenson also put up game fights but in the end this final round was about whether Sergio could “break his maiden” so to speak and win his first major while holding off the man who stole his bid at Carnoustie in ’07.
In the end, Padraig Harrington closed with a tremendous back nine in which he holed every putt he needed to make to leave me completely bewildered and devastated. He shot his second 66 (4-under) round of the day after playing the third earlier in the morning and won with a 3-under final score. That earned him his second straight major (3rd total), third of the last six and proved to everyone that he is the real deal right now. I would have to say that Padriag Harrington is the #2 golfer in the World right now. No doubt about it and I would say Sergio is #3.
I was completely devastated by this result even though it was a great finish, as good as I could’ve hoped for for the championship save for one thing — Garcia winning his first major. As a huge fan of Sergio Garcia I predicted after a disappointing British that the PGA would be his; for some reason it just felt right to me. There wasn’t any pressure on him going in and he’s always done pretty well in the PGA’s.
Watching the final round was a dream come true for me, really. Sergio came out with a birdie-eagle start that got him to within one shot of the lead, playing the best golf he could — the type of golf that he has always been capable of and the type of golf that I’ve always wanted to see from him on a Sunday, with a major on the line. He was absolutely phenomenal on the front nine at Oakland Hills. He made every putt that was critical. Every time he had to make a putt, he did. He was flawless save for an errant tee-shot on 6 but he was still able to convert an up-and-down for birdie. His 31 on the par-35 front was as good as there had been all week and it happened while in contention/leading on Sunday. It was his! I thought
But no, Harrington just wouldn’t go away and Garcia faltered just ever-so slightly. If Garcia’s near hole-out on 15 from the fairway finds its way to stay inside the hole or if he makes the return birdie putt, plus doesn’t hit it in the water on 16 (pars instead) and makes the birdie on 17 — he runs away with the thing. Obviously it’s woulda, coulda, shoulda talk and you have to give major props to Harrington, who after all earned his third major title and continues to prove his worthiness as a top golfer in the World.
The thing, I’m going to take away though from this tournament, and hope that you all do as well, is how wonderfully Sergio was able to play in search of his first title. His ball-striking was fantastic and his putting on Sunday was tremendous, he looks so comfortable with the putter right now and I am so happy about that. I honestly thought that this was Sergio’s first major title. Everything about the way it was going, how he was playing, his demeanor and down to what he was wearing — I thought this would be his moment where everyone would finally give Sergio his just do and Sergio would be able to relinquish that huge monkey that continues to cling to his back.
I just hope that the ignorant sports writers out there will now realize the greatness of the other players on the tour rather than just continuing to ride Tiger’s jock. The PGA Tour in my opinion, has never been more exciting, competitive and dramatic. 2008’s championship rivaled Tiger’s playoff victory over Bob May at Valhalla in 2000, in my opinion. Great stuff.
As far as my boy Sergio goes, it’s certainly disappointing that he couldn’t prevail but he will get his soon (next year at Turnberry in the British Open) and when he does the floodgates will open and more will come rather easily.
Keep your chin up, Sergio, you’re an incredible golfer and your time will come soon.