Watching Rory McIlroy prove that he is certain to join the
pantheon of golfing greats was a joyous and inspiring experience to all who
have witnessed his breathtaking displays at Congressional over the last few
But one man who could be forgiven a bitter glance at the
meteoric trajectory of the 22-year-old from Northern Ireland is Sergio Garcia.
Or, as he will henceforth be known, Surly Old Garcia.
Now 30 years old, the Spaniard has struggled for so long with
his putting that he's become more famous for what he isn't than for what he is.
He is no longer one of the game's bright young hopes; he is one of its false
promises, like Justin Rose or (for those with long memories) Paul Way.
Watching Sergio glare and moan his way around Congressional
on Saturday you could have been forgiven for thinking that it was Friday
afternoon and he was on his way to a missed cut, rather than turning round a
miserable year or two with some excellent golf.
But excellent golf doesn't cut it any more, not when perfect
drives, sublime iron shots and miraculous short game escapes are endlessly undermined
by missed putts.
Once again, we witnessed Garcia fail to deliver on the
greens. Sure, he found the odd long one - but it's the missed efforts between
three and 15 feet that sting. Those are the putts that Major winners knock in
with their eyes shut - as Rory McIlroy has been proving this week.
It needn't have been this way for Sergio. If he had
overhauled Tiger Woods at the US PGA Championship in 1999 instead of missing
out, the history of golf over the last decade would have been the story of his
rivalry with the fallen idol of the game.
He even had a chance at redemption four years ago, at The
Open, but his failure to finish the job at Carnoustie (despite the best efforts
of Padraig Harrington and Andres Romero to throw the Claret Jug away) now just
add to the bitterness.
A putting stroke that was one of the natural wonders of the
game when he was a teenage amateur star has been hideously transformed into a man-made
abomination which makes the Spaniard look like he wants to be physically
sick every time he stands over a five-foot birdie putt.
It must be stupendously frustrating; like being a racing driver of incomparable genius who crashes every time he
drives into the pits; or a great chef strangely cursed to sneeze
on every plate of perfection just as it is about to be served.
No wonder he looks hacked off - and he is deeply hacked
off. Even a miracle shot out of rough and under trees that clattered into the
pin on the 15th on Saturday brought only a slight grin to his face.
Once upon a time that sort of thing would have kept him pumped up for months; now it barely keeps him happy for a few seconds.
The irony is that until Sergio stops being unhappy with
himself and his struggles, he will continue to be uncomfortable and mechanical on
But that's like ordering someone to relax, or demanding
somebody laugh out loud at gunpoint.
The sad truth is that it's not going to
happen - and all that's left to El Nino now is to watch on sadly as Rory McIlroy
steps into the global icon role that should have been his.
Never has Bunker Mentality written a blog with such ardent hopes that it is wrong.
Maybe his attempts at a more relaxed new approach - which even preclude him warming up on the driving range - will bear fruit. Maybe Robert Garrigus could lend him one of his kiddies' putters to put a smile back on his face.
At this stage, anything would be worth a try - because for Sergio to end his career without ever really hitting top gear would be tantamount to sacrilege.