Sergio Garcia Pre-Championship
BETH MAJOR: Welcome to the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club, here in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. We're joined by Sergio Garcia. Sergio, I understand that you wanted to make a few comments this afternoon and just wanted to give you the opportunity to do so before we opened it up to questions.
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, well, first of all, I'm very happy to be here. First time in Philadelphia. So very excited about it.
And like right now, it's obviously ‑‑ I want to apologize for what happened a couple weeks ago. But hopefully, like Tiger said, he's considering the matter closed and hopefully we can all move forward and kind of start competing and respectfully and hopefully we can all have a great tournament.
BETH MAJOR: Speaking of competing, have you been able to spend much time on the golf course here at Merion?
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, I played 10 holes yesterday right after the rain. And then played eight holes this morning. So obviously a wonderful golf course, great area, but unfortunately the weather is really not helping much, the conditions of the golf course.
But very good golf course, difficult, great variety of short and long holes. Probably the longest par‑3s I've ever played on a championship. And I'm excited to get going.
BETH MAJOR: Great. Thanks. We'll open it up for questions.
Q. You had the opportunity to hold Ben Hogan's 1‑iron on the 18th?
SERGIO GARCIA: Oh, no, I couldn't hold it. You weren't allowed. But I was able to see it.
Q. Yes. Can you tell us about that experience and standing in that spot where he hit that famous shot?
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah. No, obviously it was amazing to see the iron itself. It looks so tiny compared to ‑‑ even though irons haven't changed that much, it's still it looks really, really tiny. Not a lot of loft on it. And it was my first time playing the 18th hole, so it was very exciting to be able to see where he hit it from to that kind of green and what he was able to achieve. So, yeah, it was very nice.
Q. Did you get a chance to apologize in person to Tiger and the Associated Press report that I had had was you left a note at his locker, is that accurate?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, unfortunately not, obviously we saw each other yesterday on the range. I was hoping to meet him after the round but he was gone after the round. The weather obviously didn't help.
And this morning I was here early. I didn't see him around. Obviously he got here later on. But, yeah, I did leave him a note. A handwritten note. And hopefully he can take a look at it and, you know, it's a big week and I understand that it's difficult to meet up and stuff. So hopefully I'll be able to do it. If not, at least he has read the note and he's happy with that.
Q. Can you tell us what it said?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I don't think that's for me to say. I think that if he wants to show you ‑‑ I mean the note is for him, so if he wants to show you, then he can. I don't have any problems with that. But I am not going to be the one showing you. Sorry.
Q. Phil Mickelson even went back to California after his practicing outside the bad weather conditions from yesterday. How tough is it to get a gauge of this course after the weather did what it did and the possibility of more maybe Thursday or something like that?
SERGIO GARCIA: It is tough. We all love playing every single tournament in hard, fast conditions. Even more a major, a U.S. Open in this case. But unfortunately that's not the case this week.
We can't control the weather. That's something that it's always been there in our sport and we have to deal with it. And hopefully we won't get any more rain, not for us but for the course itself, to make it as playable as possible and we'll try to do our best from there.
Q. Just on the Tiger thing, we know from Wentworth that you were very keen to clear it up as soon as possible when you got here. Tiger came in earlier and said there hadn't been time to discuss it. Isn't that a bit surprising when you consider that yesterday with the weather, most of the time you were spending hanging around anyway?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, when I got here yesterday, I went to register, I didn't see him. First time I saw him was on the range. I didn't see him in the locker room when I was changing or anything. So first I saw him was on the range. I felt like it wasn't the appropriate place to, for me to, out of respect to him and to the other players to do it there. So I was hoping to see him afterwards.
Unfortunately, when I got done practicing he was gone already, so I couldn't see him. And this morning he wasn't here.
But like he said, he thinks ‑‑ he considers the matter closed. He's moved on. And I'm happy that he feels that way, so hopefully we can do the same thing.
Q. It was clearly affecting you quite a lot emotionally and mentally at Wentworth. Is that still the case or are you largely over that now?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I am, I'm obviously a little bit nervous, there's no doubt about that. But like he said, with him, taking the step forward and saying that he considers it closed, a closed deal, that obviously means a lot to me. I think that I also have to say that the people around this last couple of days have been amazing. They have been very, very supportive. So that to me it gives me a lot of good feelings and a lot of pride and hopefully we can move on and compete respectfully and just do our best.
Q. You had a police officer with you yesterday, just wonder whose idea that was and if that was the case again today and would it be that way through the championship?
SERGIO GARCIA: If I can recall, I pretty much get a police officer every single time I play the U.S. Open. Not so much on regular Tour events, but at the U.S. Open probably in the past, at least, I want to say, six or seven years I think I've always had a ‑‑ we all pretty much get one. At least the bigger players you may say. So it's not different from any other year.
Q. What's it been like for you over the last two or three weeks personally, No. 1. And No. 2, your sponsor, TaylorMade, came out and said we're going to have to revisit and re‑examine our relationship with Sergio Garcia. Have you heard from them? What's the status of that situation?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, obviously I've been very worried about the whole situation. I felt terrible about it. But TaylorMade is ‑‑ all my sponsors are aware of my apology. They know how I feel about it. I've told them that what I want to do is be a respectful competitor to everyone and that also includes my sponsors. I know that everything I say or do affects my sponsors and I just want to be as respectful as I can to them and hopefully moving forward it wouldn't be a problem. But that's about it.
Q. I saw you this morning having a great time with the practice round and I wanted to find out how important it is to be able to relax with Gonzalo and Olazabal like you did this morning with weather like this. And another question is two years ago I remember Congressional when you had to make the sectionals to get there and you came out really strong and was one of the Top‑10 players. Do you think it makes a difference when you go through a sectional? Do you feel more energy after that?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well it was great to play with both Gonzalo and Jose Maria this morning. For him, like you mentioned, I had to go through sectionals two years ago here in the U.S. to get to Congressional. Jose did the same thing in England to get through and I went through ‑‑ went through in a playoff. So he was very excited. Obviously every time you have a chance of playing a major, and a U.S. Open in this case, you're very, very excited and he was no different. Even though he's played a lot. And for me it was great to be able to play with him as it always is.
Q. Your game has really improved a lot over the past year and especially this year you've been playing very consistently, I'm wondering, what accounts for that? Any particular things you've been doing the past couple years? Working on things?
SERGIO GARCIA: No, I think that all aspects of the game have improved. I've obviously hit the ball better consistently more often. Obviously I had my off weeks, but I think that the short game is better than it was probably three or four years ago. I think that things outside of golf have improved until lately, obviously.
But overall I feel a lot calmer, a little bit more mature, I guess, and all those things probably helped.
Q. Do you regret some of the things you said, unfortunately not just then, but back at Bethpage, too, with the fans and everything and do you look at ‑‑ I recently heard Curtis Strange said he wished he was more fan friendly. Do you look at yourself now with some of the comments and some of the things that happened that you need to take a different approach?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I think we all make mistakes, don't get me wrong. I've obviously made my fair share and you do regret your mistakes. But I think the most important thing from them is to learn, hopefully to make you a better person, hopefully you can handle things differently in the future. And I feel like I had a great relationship with the crowds for pretty much my whole career. Obviously a couple incidents here and there, but other than that, I feel very fortunate. I feel like they love me. I love them too. I respect them very much. Obviously you can't please everyone, but I couldn't be unhappy about the way I feel about the crowds.
Q. When you were talking about Hogan's 1‑iron it sounded as if were you describing a foreign object. What is your personal history with the 1‑iron? Have you used one ever?
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, I did, obviously, awhile back. I remember I used to have an ‑‑ it was called a driving iron. It wasn't even a 1‑iron. Back in my amateur days, I remember I used to hit it miles with it. And it was a great club for like playing the British Amateur and British Boys and things like that. This is when I was probably 14, 15, 16 years old. Because it would come out nice and low and get plenty of run.
But I think that the game has changed. I obviously ‑‑ nowadays it's much easier to get a 5‑wood out of some of these lies and even out of the thick rough than to forget about a 1‑iron, but to get a 4‑ or 5‑iron. So there's only so much use you can give to a 1‑iron any more these days. And I think that's probably why everybody's kind of moved a little bit away from them.
Q. I would like to have your personal opinion on Matteo Manassero and if with the way he's playing lately he could have a chance to win here or more in general in a major in the future. And many people compare him to, not many people, but they say that his way is to play is like Seve and I would like to have your opinion on that, too.
SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, they're definitely different players, no doubt about that. But Matteo is not only a wonderful player, he's a great kid. I've seen him for awhile now. We all know how well he can play. Obviously winning all the tournaments that he's won, but winning at Wentworth a couple weeks ago, I think he's maturing into it. I think he's realizing what to do on tour, which it takes a little bit of time. He looks very good. He's a great ball‑striker. He doesn't hit the ball very far, but he hits it very straight, very good chipper, great putter. Those kinds of things can work nicely here. It's the kind of course that being soft like it is you can hit a rescue or a 5‑wood into some of these par‑4s and stop it and he can do that. And then if you are able to get up‑and‑down when you need it, and if can he make some good putts here and there, he might have a chance.
Q. Do you have an understanding that the comments that you made regarding Tiger Woods extend beyond Tiger Woods, that they have a stinging feeling to people who look like me and other people who don't look like me that like you and support you and want you to do well out here? I mean it's not just about you and Tiger, this goes beyond, way beyond that. Can you comment about that?
SERGIO GARCIA: I understand that. That's obviously ‑‑ that's why I said sorry, because I can obviously see that I hurt a lot of people. And that doesn't make me feel good. I can tell you that.
I wish I could go back in time and take back what I said, but unfortunately, I said it. You know, the only thing I can do is show you my respect from here moving forward. I tried to be as respectful as possible competing and hopefully my ‑‑ at what I do will show you how much I care about everybody. So only time will tell us I guess.
Q. I wish you well.
SERGIO GARCIA: All right. Thanks.
Q. When you had a lot going on the last two or three weeks and a sick feeling in your stomach, etcetera, is it too much of a distraction to contend this week, to continue to play well this week?
SERGIO GARCIA: I don't know. We'll see. It obviously doesn't help, but it is my own fault. So I don't have anyone to blame other than myself.
We'll see. Like I said, the people have that made me feel very good out there, the last couple of days, so hopefully that will continue throughout the week and the only thing I can do is give my best effort and hopefully that would give me a chance. If not, we'll move on and we'll try to play well the week after.
Q. Have your feelings toward Tiger changed during any of this?
SERGIO GARCIA: Well, don't get me wrong, I respect Tiger very much. I think he's a wonderful player. He's No. 1 in the world for some reasons. He shows that. And I respect him very much and hopefully like he said, we can move forward and see where things end up.
Q. When you're dealing with a championship of this magnitude, is it as physically demanding as it is mentally? Here this week it's a shorter course, but yet you're doing a lot of traveling, a lot of shuttling back and forth, might that be challenging for you?
SERGIO GARCIA: A little bit, I guess. It's probably not what we're used to, week in, week out. I think that this week, even though it's not the longest U.S. Open golf course we have played, I think that because of how heavy the course is, it does take a little bit physically on your legs and then mentally we know how difficult a Major and a U.S. Open is.
So that needs no telling. But it's going to be interesting to see how we all cope with it and kind of manage it and hopefully make sure that we can handle it.
Q. Going way off topic here but the PGA goes back to Oak Hill this year and I'm working on a story about the match you played with Matt Kuchar in the '98 Amateur. It was just a great match and I'm trying to get some perspective from you and Matt. But if you could recall that day, the huge crowd, just kind of how that went, that match went.
SERGIO GARCIA: I think it was quarter finals. If I remember. Yeah. I remember more the one I lost, unfortunately. The semifinals. But, yeah, I remember it was a great match. I don't know if he got to 17, yeah, I think it got to 17, yeah. I remember we were both playing very well. It was very evenly matched. And it's great to see obviously him playing so well, remembering those days and where we both have come, the things we have been able to achieve. You can remember those days a little bit with a grin on your face, when you're an amateur and you're competing and trying to achieve things to make sure that one day in the future when you turn pro you could be a decent golfer.
Q. Given the wet conditions and the fact that there are a number of relatively short holes on the course, do you have to change the way you think at all? Do you have to feel like you have to try to make more birdies than normally in a U.S. Open? You have to think a little different scoring‑wise here?
SERGIO GARCIA: I wouldn't say so. I think that will come with the play. Don't get me wrong, those short holes are birdie‑able if you hit the ball well. If you miss the fairway, it doesn't matter, because you're still going to be hitting a wedge or a 9‑iron or maybe a sand wedge from thick rough into tough greens. So if you do drive the ball well on those holes, and you manage to hit a lot of fairways and hopefully you don't get too many mud balls and control your second shots, you can have a good round of birdies.
But on the other hand, then you have some really long par‑3s, tough par‑3s and you have probably four or five very tough par‑4s. So I'm sure that some of those birdies that you might make on the short ones you'll probably give them back, unfortunately, on the other ones.
BETH MAJOR: Sergio, thanks so much for joining us this afternoon and we wish you well this week.
SERGIO GARCIA: Thank you very much.