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January 4, 2006

Sergio Garcia


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Sergio, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the Mercedes Championship. Did you have a good break, an opportunity to go home to Spain.

SERGIO GARCIA: I did. Yeah, I didn't have a long break. But, you know, that's the way it is. But I'm looking forward to the start of the year. Of course, here in Hawaii, it's always a pleasure coming back. You know, we'll see. A bit rusty as it is. You know, a couple weeks, three weeks rest, just a couple days of practice. Hopefully I can get it going as the week goes on.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Questions, please.

Q. What are your plans right away? You don't play next week, do you?


Q. Are you doing the Abu Dhabi thing?

SERGIO GARCIA: Abu Dhabi, then Torrey Pines and Phoenix.

Q. What was it like to play with Ronaldo?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, it was good. You mean soccer?

Q. Yes.

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I played against him. I played on the other team. But it was fun. I enjoyed it. A lot of players. We only play like 15 minutes. I really enjoyed it. It was fun.

Q. Still own the team, hometown?


Q. Sergio, you had a year a couple years ago, I think it was probably '03, you didn't win that year. My question is, can you talk about what it's like starting out a new year with big expectations and high hopes, but also knowing that there's really no guarantee of getting back here. You still have to go out and win. Coming off two years in a row where you made it back, but Mike Weir is not here this week, Ernie is not here this week.

SERGIO GARCIA: Definitely, it's not easy. We also know what we're capable of doing. For example, last year to me, I mean, one win was the least I could get the way I played all year. But definitely you never know what's going to happen.

I mean, you always have confidence in yourself. You try to improve your game as the years go on. You know, I think I've been working quite hard on it, my short game, working hard on it. I feel like I'm starting to improve on it.

It takes a bit, but I'm looking forward to this year. Hopefully I can get it going again, get some good game, some good long game like I've been doing lately. Hopefully if I can manage the short game, then it could be a huge year.

Q. When you won last September, you indicated that you might leave this year's schedule somewhat flexible, that there will be tournaments you might play, might play more in Europe depending on how you felt you were shaping up for the Ryder Cup. Is that still going to be the case or is your schedule pretty much set?

SERGIO GARCIA: You always have an idea of where you're going to play. But there's no doubt that it can always change. You know, you may get an injury here or something, whatever happens.

But thankfully for me, the Ryder Cup team, I'm not in it, but I'm pretty close from being in it. With the majors and the events that I have in the schedule, if I play half decent, you know, I should be in the team by, I don't know, June.

You know, always just in case, you kind of have a couple openings that you can always go to and try to gain some points in some of those events.

Q. At the time you made the extraordinary statement that you might ask not to play in the Ryder Cup if you felt you weren't really shaping up the way you wanted to be.

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I think one of the most important things for the team, I mean, if I'm playing well, of course I'm going to play. If I qualify by playing really well last year and this year I'm struggling big time, I still manage to make the team by myself, I feel like I'm not going to help, I'm not going to be able to help the team because of my game, the statement of my game, I'd definitely consider talking to the captain and saying, "You know, I don't think I'm going to be a good thing for the team. Maybe this guy deserves it more than I do," something like that.

I don't think it's going to be the case because hopefully I'll be playing well (smiling).

Q. If you win the Masters, miss every cut the rest of the way out, you'll take yourself off the team?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I might. I might, yeah (smiling). If I miss every cut after that, I'll probably kill myself (laughter).

No, I don't know, there's things, you know, that are possible. It's something that is out there. I don't think it's going to happen.

Q. You mentioned the short game you've been working hard on. Is that putting specifically or the short game in general?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I've worked hard on the whole short-game thing. My chipping has improved a lot the last year, so that I have pretty much sorted out. The putting is the one that has been, you know, giving me a bit of a headache.

But I feel like I'm finally getting over it. I feel like things are -- I'm striking -- my strike is better, I'm hitting the ball more consistently in the middle of the club face. That's always important. You know, I just got to go out there and by seeing those good putts, just believe that I'm going to make them. If I do that, everything goes on. It just seems to be easy. Hopefully I can get on one of those rolls.

Q. Is that the most frustrating year you had last year, even with your win at Congressional?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I wouldn't -- no.

Q. You said a minute ago one was the least you could have done. I don't think anyone could argue with that.

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, for me it's more frustrating to play badly, like I did in 2003 when I was going through the swing changes or maybe 2000. That to me is more frustrating than playing really well and maybe only winning once or twice because at least you see you're giving yourself chances and you have chances of winning events, winning majors and winning everything.

The most horrendous thing is, you know, going out there and seeing that you don't have a chance, you're not in the tournament. The frustrating thing about it, you may say that it could have been a huge year the way I played, but it wasn't. The good thing about it is that I saw things that I had to improve on. I also saw the statement of my game, some positive things that I got out of it.

Q. Health-wise, physically, in good shape starting the year?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, feels good. Nothing to complain about.

Q. Of the majors this year, you most excited about PGA?

SERGIO GARCIA: It's going to be great coming back to Medinah. It's going to be quite an experience. I'm looking forward to Wingfoot. I've played it once, not in a tournament.

Q. Just playing?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah. I'm looking forward to see how the course will play there when the US Open is being played.

But I think it's going to be a great year. I've never seen Royal Liverpool, so that's going to be something different. We'll see how it goes.

Q. Monty has never seen Royal Liverpool. Can you believe that? He's older than you.

SERGIO GARCIA: I know. Just slightly (smiling).

Q. Mentally and as far as your game is concerned, do you think you are now in a position -- I know you played well enough to win majors in recent years, but do you feel confident about it now? Do you feel any different now than you would have done, say, last year or previous years in terms of your ability to win a major?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, no. I feel pretty much the same. It's just a matter of seeing if my putting starts coming along and feeling good about it, getting confidence on it throughout the year. If that happens, then I will feel really good going into the majors. Because without putting great, I've been there and I've had chances of winning more than once. You know, if my putting game is on, I feel like I can do some damage there.

But, you know, it will build up as the year goes on, as I keep working hard on it, hopefully getting more and more consistency.

Q. Have you tried any particular technique? We know Phil Mickelson has tried things.

SERGIO GARCIA: No, what I found out is -- just by looking at some tapes and stuff, I found out, more than anything, pressure moments I used to hit a lot of putts a little bit off line, not off the toe, but off center to the right side of the center of the club face with the putter. So I've been working, you know, just a couple little tips with a couple tees, just kind of swing it through it while I'm putting, make sure that I strike it in the middle. If I hit one of the tees, I know I'm not doing properly. I've been doing that since the World Cup in Portugal. It's been helping.

I feel like my stroke is a bit more consistent and I feel like my pace is going to improve with that. The more inconsistent you are by striking it, when you strike it well, it rolls a bit more; when you strike it a bit off the toe, it goes a bit softer. I think it's going to be a good mix.

Q. Is it something you've been doing indoors? Would you be doing it in a hotel or is it strictly outdoor?

SERGIO GARCIA: No, I usually do it on the putting green mainly because I can get the two tees in there.

Q. I forgot about the tees.

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah (smiling).

Q. Are you working with your dad on the putting or have you considered any putting gurus out there?

SERGIO GARCIA: No, the thing is I feel like, you know, everything I've worked on has been good. It's just, you know, that little thing of making sure to strike the ball in the middle all times. That's going to give you that extra consistency that you need. I really don't need anybody to see that. I can do it by myself with my caddie, with Glen, with my dad. You can see it because it's instant feedback. As soon as you clip one of the tees, you know you've done it wrong. You really don't need anybody.

Q. I've talked to other guys who have gone through this process. They get putters mailed to them, contraptions, devices, emails. Did you get any of that coming your way?

SERGIO GARCIA: I got some, yeah. I got a couple letters, a couple of things. You know, I think that if you know what you're working on and you're confident about what you're working on, you know that's the right way to go, you don't need anything else. 'Cause at the end of the day, it doesn't have to be a perfect stroke, but it has to be one that you trust and one that you feel good with it. You know, if you hit the ball in the middle of a club face, it doesn't matter what you do. It's kind of like the swing: it doesn't matter what you do, as long as the stroke is consistent.

At the end of the day, most of the times you make it -- you make the putts with your head, not with your hands. Hopefully that consistency can get me thinking the right way.

Q. Who made the tape? Was it actual tournament coverage?

SERGIO GARCIA: No. I've noticed a couple times, a guy from Sky Sports that I'm quite friends with, I think his name is Tim Barton, he showed me a little bit because he's always carrying his camera and stuff. He likes to film my swing, film other guy's swings, things like that. He kind of told me about it a little bit. I said, "Yeah, I felt something." He gave me a little bit of a help there. Worked on it since then.

Q. Make sure you'll be giving credit to the media then, right?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, but he used to be a player (smiling).

Q. You talk about going back to Medinah, what are your recollections and how vividly do you remember your emotions pulling out of that parking lot on Sunday?

SERGIO GARCIA: It was great. I've always said, it was probably the best week of my life. It was quite an experience for me coming out, just being a youngster, 19 years old, having a chance of winning one of my first majors as a professional. You know, I'm looking forward to seeing my tree. It's probably halfway down with a big hole on it (laughter).

No, it's going to be fun to see the course again. I heard there's been a couple changes. Looking forward to see how is that, you know, get back on the spot and kind of go through what happened in my head.

Q. Did that almost feel like a victory?

SERGIO GARCIA: Almost. Unfortunately, wasn't. But at the time it did feel great, more than anything because it opened a lot of doors for me. I got my card for the US tour. That's one of the things I wanted to get in that first year. Got me into the Ryder Cup team. That was a dream. I didn't even think about it when I turned pro.

You know, it was a huge week for me. Could have been extremely big, but it was still a huge week.

Q. Can you still get as much air on that scissors kick?

SERGIO GARCIA: I think so (laughter).

Q. Looking forward to the majors in 2006, which do you feel you have the best chance to win?

SERGIO GARCIA: I don't know. You know, we've talked about this for some years now. I've always said that I really like the British and the Masters, but I feel like my game shapes up well for the US Open. It's probably the major that I I've done the best, I've been the most consistent on.

Hopefully I can get it going again at the US Open, see if I can give it a run, have a chance of winning at a course like Wingfoot. Looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to all four of them. We'll see what happens.

Q. It's been seven years since Medinah. Do you feel like you are where you thought you would be? Are you a little ahead? A little behind?

SERGIO GARCIA: Of course, when you pro, you're hoping to do well. Once you settle in, of course, you want to do the best you can. No doubt about it, I would have loved to do more than I've done. But if you look at it, I've been fortunate. I had a good career. I'm almost 26 years old, you know, pretty well-established in the top 10 in the world, with a lot of good victories around the world, world player, so I travel a lot. I enjoy travelling, seeing the world, playing around, getting to know different cultures, different people.

I've been fortunate to win a lot of tournaments. If you look -- you know, it depends who you compare me with. If you compare me with Tiger, that is something out of the ordinary, of course my career doesn't seem that great. But if you compare me with the other 25-year-olds, 26-year-old players, I'm sure pretty much all of them would love to have a career like the one I have.

Q. What do you think separates you from the other players in their 20s? Is it victories or do you think it's more the number of chances you've given yourself in the majors? Seem to have been there a lot.

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, well, I have. I've had a lot of good chances. I don't know, I guess it's probably a bit of a mix of both. For example, Adam has got a pretty good record, too. But maybe he hasn't been as consistent in the majors. But he's got a good amount of wins, too. He's a wonderful player and a good friend of mine. You know, he's one of the ones you have to look for. He's going to be good in the future.

But, you know, it's not easy. Sometimes people might think it's a lot easier than what it looks. Everybody can play out here. It doesn't matter -- they don't care how old you are, how good you might be, what you've done in the past. Everybody's trying as hard as they can, and it shows. That's why we have so many wonderful players.

Q. Are there guys here this week you have never heard of before, going into last year, for example? Had you ever heard of Jason Gore at this time a year ago?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, I did, because he actually -- he's a friend of Gary Matthews who caddies for Tim Clark. He's good friends with my caddie and with me. I have heard about him.

Q. Wes Short ?

SERGIO GARCIA: Wes shores is probably somebody I didn't hear much from. Maybe Jason Bohn, somebody I didn't hear much from. It doesn't mean they're not good players.

Q. I'm saying, is that an example?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, that shows you how the level of the game is evolving, how much deeper the fields are these days than they used to be.

Q. When you talk about your performance at the US Open where you've given yourself some chances, do you enjoy the ball-striking test of the US Open or the fact that it requires so much mental toughness?

SERGIO GARCIA: I guess a bit of everything about it. I think the ball-striking part I enjoy because it's right up my alley. Usually I'm a fairly good driver of the ball. I hit a lot of greens. That's always going to be huge in a US Open. If you somehow manage to do that, you're going to be up there in the US Open. You don't need to make a whole bunch of putts because you know that a lot of pars are usually good in US Open.

You know, I guess that kind of thinking in that tournament kind of takes a little bit of pressure out of my short game, out of my putting, might free it up a little bit. If you go to a tournament knowing, maybe like a Bob Hope, something like that, that you know you have to shoot 28 or 30 under, you know you have to make pretty much every putt inside 10 feet to have a chance of winning. I guess that's the way I was brought up. That's the way I feel more comfortable.

Q. Europeans in general, at this time a year ago, there were four or five in the top 20, now there's close to eight. My question would be toward the Ryder Cup. No matter who has won the most times, you look at it on paper, you say the US is probably favored. Do you think by the time we get there, if we continue at this pace, you can actually look on paper at the rankings and say the teams are even? Long question, sorry.

SERGIO GARCIA: Can you repeat that (smiling)?

No, I wouldn't say so. I would say on paper it's going to be hard to do that because still you have a lot of Americans playing here, and the European Tour you have to play really, really well to get up in the world rankings and stay up there. A lot of victories, like Monty did some years ago.

Here, if you're consistent, because of the field, the points you get, it's a little bit simpler to get yourself up there and kind of stay on that level. You know, the good thing is that some more of those Europeans have come here to play in the US tour, in the PGA TOUR, and that's probably why you see some of those Europeans climbing up those world ranking points.

Also, I guess as we talked before, everybody is trying to get better. You have a lot of guys there that are coming back, like Olazabal, nice to see, those kind of things are always great for the game.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thanks, Sergio.

End of FastScripts.

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