Garcia still wants
Garcia's pedigree and God-given right to challenge Woods as the best player in the world have never been in question. He was 2-years-old when he took his first golf swings with a feather duster in the pro shop at Club de Campo del Mediterraneo where his father worked. At age 12 he won the club championship, and at 15 he was the youngest player to ever win the European Amateur while compiling a 32-1 match play record and a plus-5.4 handicap.
In 2002, Garcia amassed earnings in excess of $2.4 million, including a season-opening victory in the Mercedes Championships in Hawaii. He capped the year by leading the European team to a 15.5 to 12.5 victory over the U.S. in the Ryder Cup at the Belfry in England. Garcia says he savored the historic victory for a few days, but has since set his sights on the 2003 season.
"Winning the Ryder Cup and winning the majors is what players think about," he says. "The Ryder Cup is over and now we are back here and we are individual again."
Which, if you read between the lines, means it is back to Woods vs. Garcia for all the marbles. Garcia once said that his career is to be the best player on both the PGA and European Tours. He splits his time between the two tours, with a schedule that has been weighted heavily toward the U.S. since he turned pro three years ago. To complete both sides of this equation, Garcia will have to dethrone Woods as the best player in the world - a feat that is becoming less and less likely, even with Woods likely to miss the first two months of the 2003 season while rehabbing a knee injury.
Last season, Garcia turned in impressive performances in three of the four majors, finishing eighth in the Masters, fourth in the U.S. Open, eighth in the British Open and tied for 10th in the PGA Championship. All well and fine until you consider that Woods won twice on golf's biggest stages, (the 2002 Masters and U.S. Open) adding to his gaudy collection of eight Major titles. Undaunted, Garcia says he is sticking to his plan despite the fact that he'll play in fewer events in the U.S. in 2003.
"That is still my goal," he says. "I haven't made my schedule yet, but I probably won't make as many trips over here."
It's too bad, because many of us will miss the playfulness and passion he brings to the game and a rivalry that is only beginning to take shape.