US PGA: Calmer Sergio Garcia more pragmatic as run of maiden major winners raises hope

Hideki Matsuyama, of Japan, watches his tee shot on the fifth hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Hideki Matsuyama, of Japan, watches his tee shot on the fifth hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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Sergio Garcia hopes to continue the streak of first-time winners and finally rid himself of the tag of ‘best player not to have won a major’ this week.

World No 1 Jason Day won his first major title in last year’s US PGA Championship and 2016 has also produced maiden major winners in Yorkshire’s Danny Willett (Masters), Dustin Johnson (US Open) and Henrik Stenson (Open Championship).

“I would love to make it five in a row,” Garcia told a pre-tournament press conference at Baltusrol.

“Obviously it would be very nice but we’ll see.

“It’s a long week. My goal is to play well, to give myself another shot at winning a tournament, winning a major, and then see what I can come up with.”

After falling out of contention in the 2012 Masters, Garcia said he felt he was not good enough to win a major and he has recorded a total of 22 top-10 finishes, including ties for fifth at Oakmont and Royal Troon this season.

“I think that probably the way I look at things now has changed a little bit,” added the world No 10. “Experience and age has definitely made me a little bit calmer out on the course.

“Before, if I made a couple of bogeys, I would get a little bit angry. Now I seem to take it a little bit easier.

“For example, in the Open Championship, the way I was feeling with my swing and everything, probably 12, 15 years ago I would have struggled to maybe finish in the top 30 or 40.

“I knew that maybe I wasn’t feeling amazing, but I fought hard, waited for my opportunities and thanks to that I finished top five.

“That obviously encourages me a lot.”

Garcia was also encouraged to see the 40-year-old Stenson win his first major with a record-breaking performance which relegated 46-year-old Phil Mickelson to second place.

“Henrik, when I saw him on Monday at my event in Switzerland, he said, ‘you know, I’m 40, you’re 36, you still have probably 16 more (majors) before you get there,’” the Spanish Ryder Cup star added.

“So at the end of the day, if you stay healthy, you still can give yourself a lot of chances here and there. Hopefully, it will happen. If it doesn’t happen, it’s not going to change my life.

“I’m not going to go in a cave and stay there until I die because I didn’t win a major or anything like that. It’s not that serious.

“I’m not going to lie – it would be nice to get at least one. But it’s not the end of the world.”

World No 1 and defending champion Day, meanwhile, admits he is running on empty ahead of his title defence after completing an unwanted grand slam of disrupted preparation for this year’s majors.

After suffering with a back problem before the Masters, a cold at the US Open and a rib injury scare at the Open, Day arrived at Baltusrol feeling under the weather and then spent Tuesday evening in hospital after his wife suffered an allergic reaction.

The 28-year-old will therefore defend his first major title after just one practice round yesterday and could lose his position at the top of the world rankings if he finishes 29th or worse and Dustin Johnson is outright second or better.

“I was always going to take Monday off and Dash and Lucy (his children) are sick right now and Dash passed that on to me a little bit,” said Day.

“I’m just a little bit under the weather.

“Then Ellie had an allergic reaction last night and had to go to the hospital. We were there until 2am or something like that. So I’m kind of running on E (empty) right now.

“She was kind of freaking out, which is understandable, because she got all red.

“I’ve been in that situation before when I first ate seafood so I was kind of calm about it, and she’s like, ‘Call 911, call 911’. We got a little loss of sleep but she’s fine now.

“I haven’t seen the course. I don’t know what it looks like. I was with Doug Steffen, the head pro, last night at the champions’ dinner. I went through pretty much every hole with him for about 20, 30 minutes.”