Sergio Garcia Sergio Garcia wearing 'favorite' tag in British Open at Royal Birkdale

After coming within inches of winning his first major at last year's British Open, Sergio Garcia is the favorite in the 2008 Open championship at Royal Birkdale.

With no Tiger Woods in the field — the world No. 1-ranked player is out for the year after undergoing knee surgery — local oddsmakers have Garcia as the 8-1 favorite in the event in Southport, England. However, Garcia said the high expectations for him won't change his approach.

"It doesn't feel any different," Garcia told reporters. "At the end of the day, I know that I've got to be favorite myself, in me. It doesn't matter what anybody else says. I have to go out there and do what I know how to do, believe in my ability to do it and then give myself a chance at winning."

In 2007 at Carnoustie, Garcia faltered in the final round and bogeyed the 72nd hole to fall into a four-hole playoff with eventual Open champion Padraig Harrington, who actually double bogeyed his final hole. After leading the first three rounds of the tournament, Garcia wound up watching Harrington beat him out for the Claret Jug by a single stroke.

While disappointed by his failure to close out the victory, Garcia said he's not prone to dwelling on the near miss.

"It's really not that big a deal, you know?" Garcia said. "There are a lot worse things than losing an Open in a playoff out there. Like I said, like I've been saying since you guys asked me about that, there were a lot more positives coming out of that week than negatives."

Perhaps the thing that stung Garcia the most about coming up just short is that he considers the Open his favorite major.

"I love this major. Everything about it, it's great," Garcia said. "Obviously it's the only one we play in Europe, so it always makes it even more exciting for a European.

"Also, I love the golf courses. We don't get to play on these kinds of courses too often and we try to enjoy the moment as much as possible. And then the crowds and the history of the tournament, it's just unbelievable."

Phil Mickelson, the No. 2-ranked player in the world, said Garcia is certainly capable of putting everything together and winning at any time.

"I think that Sergio is one of the best ball strikers in the game today and I have seen a noticeable change in his short game," Mickelson told reporters. "I think a major championship is very close in [Garcia's] realm and the fact that he came so close last year in the Open championship and didn't win, I don't think it's something to really worry too much about. I think that his major championship is coming very soon."

Ranked No. 7 in the world and already owning a victory in golf's unofficial fifth major — The Players Championship — Garcia said he feels his game is in as good a shape as it has ever been.

British Open

SCHEDULE: Thursday-Sunday
SITE: Southport, England
COURSE: Royal Birkdale Golf Club (7,173 yards, par 70)
PURSE: $8.24 million (winner's share: $1,487,000)
FEDEX CUP POINTS: 27,500 (winner's share: 4,950)
TV: TNT (Thursday-Friday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m. EDT; Saturday, 7-9 a.m. EDT; Sunday, 6-8 a.m. EDT) and ABC (Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. EDT; Sunday, 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. EDT).

PGA Tour: Kenny Perry trying to stay hot

Last week, Kenny Perry won the John Deere Classic to capture his third PGA Tour victory in five starts. He'll attempt to add to his miraculous run playing this week in the U.S. Bank Championship at Brown Deer Park Golf Course in Milwaukee.

Despite earning an invitation to play in the British Open with his victory last Sunday, the 47-year-old Perry is skipping the major tournament to play in Milwaukee. He also bypassed attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open, instead electing to focus on events and golf courses where he said he felt he had a greater chance to win and build his resume for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, which play this year in his home state of Kentucky.

Last year, Joe Ogilvie broke through for the first time in 230 PGA Tour starts, beating Tim Clark, Tim Herron and Charlie Wi by four strokes to win the U.S. Bank Championship title. Corey Pavin won the 2006 tournament for his first tour title in 10 years with a two-stroke victory over Jerry Kelly.

U.S. Bank Championship

SCHEDULE: Thursday-Sunday
SITE: Milwaukee
COURSE: Brown Deer Park Golf Course (6,759 yards, par 70)
PURSE: $4 million (winner's share: $720,000)
FEDEX CUP POINTS: 12,500 (winner's share: 2,250)
TV: Golf Channel (Thursday, 4-7 p.m. EDT; Friday, 1-4 a.m., 4-7 p.m. EDT; Saturday-Sunday, 1-4 a.m., 2-5 p.m. EDT; Monday, 1-4 a.m. EDT).

July 17, 2008

Comments Leave a comment