A flop in majors, Garcia is a Ryder Cup sensation

Thursday, September 21st 2006, 6:32 am
By: News On 6

STRAFFAN, Ireland (AP) _ Sergio Garcia is beginning to get a reputation as a guy who can't win a major. Put him in the Ryder Cup, though, and it seems like he can't lose.

Garcia could be Tiger Woods in reverse when it comes to comparing their record in majors and Ryder Cup play. While Woods has won 12 majors, he has struggled when playing under the U.S. flag against Europe.

Garcia has never won a major, but at the age of 26 is already playing in his fourth Ryder Cup. He's at the heart of Europe's team, with a record of 10-3, with two halves, giving him the highest winning percentage of any European who has played in at least three cups.

Garcia and countryman Jose Maria Olazabal, who returns for the seventh time and is 15-8-5, could be the cornerstone of another European triumph. They won't take long to get into action, playing a better-ball match in the opening round Friday against David Toms and Brett Wetterich.

Garcia says he can't wait.

``The Ryder Cup is that, the Ryder Cup,'' he said. ``There's no better phrase to describe it. It's just a special event. We only play it every two years and that makes it even more special. It's quite difficult to qualify for it, to get into the team.''

Garcia was on the European lineups that won in 2002 and '04 and clearly enjoys the camaraderie of team play.

``If you add everything and you kind of mix it up, put it all together, it just makes for an unbelieveable week,'' he said. ``I've been fortunate enough to win two of them and just the experienced I've had in the Ryder Cup have been great, how close you get to your playing partners, how much you share in that week.

``It's been an unbelieveable experience. I wouldn't give it back.''

Garcia owns a 2-1 edge over Woods in Ryder Cup play although they have not met in singles.

``I've been fortunate enough to do pretty well against him,'' the Spaniard said. ``I guess I've had some nice partners.''

While the pairing with Olazabal seems logical as they are the only two Spaniards of the 12 Europeans, the two are not close. Olazabal does not have the same warm friendship he had with Seve Ballesteros who both played for and captained winning Ryder Cup teams.

But Garcia looks forward to playing alongside his countryman, who was age 28 when he won his first major, the 1994 Masters.

``We have a great relationship,'' Garcia said. ``He's got a lot more experience than I do in these kind of situations. He's been very open, very funny.

``As Monty (Colin Montgomerie) said the other day in the team room, any team without Jose Maria Olazabal, it's a weaker team. So we'll take him any time, even if he's not playing his best. He's just good at match play and at getting the ball in the hole.''

Although neither Spaniard has won a tournament this year, Olazabal tied for third at the Masters and Garcia did the same at the PGA Championship

Garcia contributed 4 1/2 out of a possible five points when Europe outplayed the Americans 18 1/2 to 9 1/2 at Oakland Hills two years ago. He said, though, that he doesn't focus on his own record in this event.

``The main goal is beating the Americans so we can win the Ryder Cup,'' Garcia said. ``I will go five losses and zero wins playing five games if that means we are going to beat the American team.

``I would rather go that way than have five wins, zero losses and we lose the Ryder Cup.''