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Is Sergio Garcia back? That was the question on everyone’s lips on a sunny day in Munich when El Nino made a play at winning his first event anywhere since the 2009 HSBC Champions in Shanghai, where he defeated England’s Oliver Wilson in a two-hole playoff.
Garcia entered Sunday’s final round at the International Open 4 shots back of Englishman Mark Foster, after shooting an 8-under-par 64. He would make a spirited attempt to not only catch Foster, but put away the field with a stretch of three birdies and two eagles from the 6th hole to the 11th, taking the lead with only seven holes to go.
The move was impressive considering that Garcia seemed to lose most of his desire and game over the last year.
“I think what I’ve been doing off the golf course has helped a lot,” Garcia said after Saturday’s third round about his state of mind after the dismal 2010 season. “I know playing football has its risks and playing tennis has its risks, but that’s what I love doing. I love playing golf but I also love playing other sports, and that helps me be a better golfer. Obviously, the happier I am outside, the happier or the more I enjoy when I’m inside. And it’s good to see that it’s slowly getting there.”
Just as the crowd started asking if Garcia was back, the Spaniard made four bogeys over the next five holes and not only lost his lead, but needed to birdie the 18th hole to tie fellow country man Pablo Larrazabal in the clubhouse.
With a five footer, made after getting to the green in two shots on the 18th, sudden death playoff ensued with both players punching and counter-punching for five holes. Larazabal, not Garcia, would win the title when Garica lipped out a birdie putt on the 18th hole.
“I’ve been saying it all year long; I think that I’ve been feeling some good things throughout the whole year,” Garcia said after his third round on Saturday. “There have been some really good rounds. And you know, I think like I said, it’s been a working process.”
As part of the back-story in Munich, Garcia had not missed a major since the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie. His major run was looking tenuous for next month’s Open Championship at Sandwich. But with his second-place finish, Garcia will join fellow Spaniard Larrazabal on the English coast, placing high enough on the “current form” mini-money list the R&A uses on both sides of the pond to for those not already in the championship.
“That’s definitely one of the goals,” Garcia said of getting into the Open Championship. “We wanted to obviously get there and win the tournament if we could. Unfortunately Pablo was just a little bit better than us today. After all when you look at it, I’m pretty satisfied. I think that I’m sure that we can learn some good things from this week, and we just can move forward. “
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.