Sergio Garcia Wilts Under The Pressure Again

Third-Round Leader Ends Up Tied For Fourth At Deutsche Bank

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NORTON, Mass. — Tiger Woods lost his FedEx Cup point lead. Sergio Garcia just lost it.


No, Sergio didn't show up at TPC Boston dressed head to toe in yellow like he did for the final round of the British Open at Hoylake. That was the July day in 2006 when Tiger took Sergio's lunch and, after lifting the Claret Jug, reportedly texted a friend, "I just bludgeoned Tweety Bird."

On this Labor Day, Sergio settled for a bright yellow shirt to go with his black pants for the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship. And while it would be uncharitable to say the shirt may have camouflaged the yellow streak running down Garcia's competitive backbone, sadly it would not be entirely inaccurate.

"He's choking," NBC analyst Johnny Miller said as the Spaniard kicked away his two-stroke, 54-hole lead with the only over-par round among the top 20 finishers at this FedEx Cup playoff event won by Henrik Stenson. Miller called it a total collapse, although Garcia would eliminate that adjective "total" with birdies on two of the final four holes.

"Collapse" would suffice.

Only six players in the entire field finished worse than Garcia's 2-over 73. And what makes the number so stark is the fact that Garcia continued his string of final-round hatchet jobs.

Garcia has a 69.96-stroke average before cuts this year. First two days, he's eighth best on the tour. He also entered with a final-round average of 72.33, 165th on the tour. We could argue Sergio always folds on Sunday, but as this event demonstrated he's not immune to Monday, either. Despite all the birdies surrendered on this rain-dampened course, when the average round was 69.97, he couldn't even be average.

Stenson, who won a nifty $1.44 million at minus-22 and inched ahead of Woods heading into the final two events of the Fed Ex Cup, shot a 66. Jordan Spieth — put this 20-year-old on the Presidents Cup team, Fred Couples! — finished birdie, birdie, birdie, eagle for a 62 and a fourth-place finish tied with Garcia and two others at minus-17. Nobody on the big blue media tent leaderboard, in fact, shot worse than 70. Except Sergio.

"I just wasn't comfortable," Garcia said in his brief remarks afterward. "I wasn't able to trust myself as I did the first few days."

Although a morning start had been delayed by rain, Monday stood to be the sunniest of Garcia's year of discontent. The day stood to bring Garcia his ninth PGA Tour victory, tying his idol, Seve Ballesteros. More than that, it stood to give him some joyful distance from the fallout over his idiotic attempt at humor in May about Woods at a European Tour dinner.

Garcia has apologized publicly and profusely for saying he would "serve fried chicken" to Woods at the U.S. Open. The two shook hands. Garcia put a written letter of apology in Woods' locker before the U.S. Open at Merion. And while Woods sounded satisfied Garcia was contrite, Garcia has struggled with the fallout. Until Deutsche, he hadn't had a top-20 finish since those remarks.

"The summer has been tough," Garcia had said earlier in the weekend. "I'm trying hard to keep doing the right things. It's been a good learning experience. I think you always have to try to take the positives out of all those things and learn from your mistakes. And hopefully make you a better player, a better person."

Garcia looked so confident with his opening rounds of 65, 64 and 65. Afraid he could miss the FedEx cut of 70 golfers for the BMW Championship, Garcia has eschewed his usual Deutsche week off and played his fifth successive event. If fatigue was getting to him this weekend, he certainly didn't sound concerned after a terrific third round. Evidently, it wasn't enough for him to awake from his final-round nightmares.

Look, the PGA Tour playoff isn't the Super Bowl or the Final Four. It's not the Masters or any of the majors. But the events do have giant $8 million purses and bring together golf's biggest names. The Cup pays a whopping $10 million to the eventual champion. There's a legitimate level of excitement.

A win would have moved Garcia into third place and into a perfect spot to take a shot at the $10 million. His response? He three-putted No. 2. After a lousy tee shot, he bogeyed No. 4. After a birdie on five, he bogeyed No. 7 and came back after an afternoon rain delay to push a short putt on No. 9 for his fourth of five bogeys. Garcia not only went out in 39, he already was out of the winner's circle. With due respect to Miller's back-nine "he's choking" remark, Garcia already had.

"It was hard, but I tried," Garcia said. "I still tried as hard as I could the last four holes and I think I played [them] quite well."

Woods' young daughter, Sam, wore a red-and-black outfit on the course that matched her daddy's colors. Beyond that, little else looked right for Woods. He had nothing. He putted terribly, finishing 65th, 18 strokes behind Stenson.

"It wasn't my week," Woods said.

Save his strong Ryder Cup team performances, those same words seem to always ring familiar for Sergio when everybody is watching. Drift back 14 years. Remember that delightful 19-year-old kid at the PGA Championship at Medinah? Remember the crazy recovery shot from the trunk of a tree when he went sprinting up the fairway, scissor-kicking, to follow the ball's flight to the green? We all loved him. We thought he'd battle Tiger for majors for years to come. And remember how cute it was when Martina Hingis, then his girlfriend, followed Sergio when he played TPC at River Highlands in 2002?

But he also celebrated like he'd won the Masters after beating a flu-battered Tiger at Bighorn in 2000. Then he complained that if Tiger had been on the course when he had, they would have stopped the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage because of rain. He wasn't so lovable to a lot of folks on this side of the pond.

All these years later, Garcia, now 33, is still without a major. When he ended the 2012 regular season by winning the Wyndham Championship, he seemed to have a head of steam. He had four top eights in his first eight tournaments in 2013, but the eighth also brought a meltdown. Tied for the lead with Tiger, he dumped two shots into the water at No. 17 in the Players Championship. TPC Sawgrass had been the site of his greatest victory in 2008, yet now it became symbolic of all that has gone wrong for Garcia over the years. Tiger won. Sergio complained that Woods had pulled out a club during his backswing in the third round, causing the crowd to get loud and distract him. Tiger said Sergio is always complaining about something. Days later, Sergio made his lousy joke. And while Tiger has let it go and most folks have, too, on a day when Sergio stood to do something special on the golf course, he could not let go of the horror of his final rounds.

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