Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Count on Sergio Garcia winning a major soon

Padraig Harrington got Sergio Garcia again Sunday at the PGA Championship, demonstrating in wide-eyed wonder the career-defining line between being a major champion and not.

Harrington has supplanted Phil Mickelson as the world’s second-best player, having now collected three of the past six major championships. I know Tiger Woods didn’t play in two of those, but that Harrington still went out and won majors the way the great ones always have – by hitting gutsy shots and holing the gritty putts when they matter most.

Which brings me back to Sergio, who is now 0-for-41 in majors. It looked as if the PGA would be his breakthrough victory, but it wasn’t and there are a handful of places to point if you’re looking to lay blame.

You can’t hit the ball in the water at the 16th hole when you’re playing for the championship. Do what Ben Curtis did – play to the left corner of the green, make par and go on.

Sergio made a mistake trying to be aggressive. It’s not the first time. The secret to winning majors is often not in forcing the action but in letting the tournament come to you. Just ask Jack Nicklaus.

Then there was the 5-foot birdie putt that Sergio missed on the 17th hole, giving Harrington a one-stroke cushion going to the too-hard 18th. That stroke proved to be the difference (I don’t count the miss at 18 because the tournament had already been lost at that point).

Sergio insists he hit the putt he wanted and it just didn’t break like he expected. Fair enough. It happens.

Harrington, meanwhile, was holing every putt he looked at. That’s where he is right now in his career. He expects them to go in. Maybe there’s a whisker of doubt in Sergio’s mind and why not.

But I think Sergio will win majors, not one, but more than one. I think he’s getting more comfortable in the chase and he’s not going to away. Had the putt fallen at Carnoustie last year and again Sunday on the 17th hole, Sergio might be getting the praise Harrington is now getting.

Sergio handled this loss better than the one at Carnoustie, a step in the right direction. One day soon he’s going to be the guy holding the major championship trophy.