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MERCEDES CHAMPIONSHIPS

January 4, 2005

Sergio Garcia

KAPALUA, HAWAII

TODD BUDNICK: All right, we have 2002 champion of the Mercedes Championships, Sergio Garcia. Ninth on the PGA TOUR Money List, 13th on the European Tour. What's in store for Sergio Garcia in 2005?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, hopefully keep getting better. I think last year was a very positive year for me. You know, after all I went through in 2003, to get back on it and see that my swing was really performing and unfortunately, I didn't putt very well last year and it showed. But I still managed to get some good results in and I'm looking forward to this year. I'm definitely rusty, but, you know, hopefully I'll get it as the year goes on.

TODD BUDNICK: Two wins on the PGA TOUR and won one on the European Tour. What are your goals for this year?

SERGIO GARCIA: Just keep playing better, just keep improving and keep getting consistency on my game, improve my short game and hopefully get a little better with my putting. And, you know, I think if I do that and I keep that consistency that I had last year on my long game, I think that, you know, I could do some nice things. I'm just going to go one step at a time and try to play the best I can every week and try to do the best I can every week.

Q. Consistency-wise, how do you feel you played last year? How would you rate your consistency last year?

SERGIO GARCIA: On the long game, I think it was great, the best I had in my career, no doubt about it. Unfortunately my putting, it wasn't really, I mean as close as -- nearly as close as good as my long game was. Unfortunately a lot of the tournaments, I felt like I probably -- if I would have been putting a little bit better, I probably would have had four easy, good chances of winning more tournaments last year.

You know, I had some good chances, here in the U.S., I won twice and I won once in Europe and I finished second a couple of times towards the end of the year. So, you know, it was a good year, but I felt like I only started winning when I finally got a couple of putts in, and unfortunately I left probably four or five months of the schedule where I, you know, didn't perform as well as my game was seen.

Q. Is your ball-striking where you want it to be right now?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, right now, no. (Laughs). Yeah, according to last year, yeah, I definitely have to improve a little bit this week. I'm definitely rusty. It's something that happened and I've probably been practicing for about three days. You know, it's getting better every day, but I think there's still room for improvement, but it's definitely a lot closer than what I'm focused on.

Q. Were you rusty when you won here in 2002 or were you just less rusty than everybody else?

SERGIO GARCIA: I probably was less rusty than everybody else.

I don't know, I probably was a bit rusty at the beginning of the year. I mean, we all are. We just came off Christmas and it's the only time of the season we can really take a nice rest and I spend about two and a half weeks without practicing and just started practicing just before New Year's.

It definitely takes a little bit of time. Hopefully as the week goes on, you start getting some nice confidence on your side and you start getting things going the right way, it makes it a bit easier.

Q. People talk about either a big three on TOUR or a big four or a big five. How close are you, do you think, from being in that group and what do you need to do to get there?

SERGIO GARCIA: To tell you the truth, I really don't care that much. I know what I can do. That's something that you guys like to point out and, you know, I think there's a whole bunch of good players out there. You know, I really feel like I've just got to get better, keep improving and let my clubs do the talking.

You know, when I do that, then you guys will realize if I'm on that category that you were talking about or not.

Q. I've got a follow-up question, I'm just thinking of it.

SERGIO GARCIA: Go ahead.

Q. Do you have a putting coach, your dad or McLean or who do you work with on putting?

SERGIO GARCIA: Don't get me wrong, my putting is miles better than it was probably a year or a year and a half ago. I probably went through quite a big change on my putting stroke. My setup, if you look at it from probably three years to now, it's totally different. I'm a lot more square over the ball, my head used to be tilted back and I used to aim a little right and kind of hit everything with a little pull. Now I have -- I'm a lot more on top of the ball, a lot more square, backing through it it's a bit -- it's a bit more inline as it used to be.

I'm happy with the stroke. I just think it's a matter of getting some, you know, some good confidence on it, and I think that if I get it in my head, I think that's the most important thing at the moment, just believing that I am a good putter and that I can do it.

Q. Well, it's got to be good for a guy like you who wants to improve that aspect of his game, seeing what Vijay did last year, who went from supposedly in his mind a mediocre putter to one of the best putters on TOUR.

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, yeah, definitely, Vijay had an extremely good year last year and it's something that we can all look at and try to achieve.

So, you know, I'm looking forward to it and as I said before, it's something I have to get in my head. You know, the basics are there. The stroke is good. I just need to believe that I am a good putter.

Q. Sergio, this tournament is obviously not a major, but where does it fit in, is it in the same tier as THE TOUR Championship, that sort of thing, just the fact that it's only winners who get here? Where does this event rank?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, I guess this is pretty similar to that. We know it's tough to get into the Mercedes Championship. We know that you have to at least win once on the year, on the year before, so it's already a decent year if you've won once. It's always nice to come back here, there's no doubt about that and it's a tournament you want to play every year if you can. But, you know, I think we always enjoy coming back and you know, Gary and Nancy and everybody treats us so well here, it's just a beautiful place.

Q. Where does the 2002 title here fit on your list of wins?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, it's a great win, no doubt about it. I think they all rate. You can't take anything from any of the other ones. They are all tough. They are all special. So they are all up there.

Q. Is there one shot in particular that you've had in your career that's inspirational, the one shot that you've made that you can always refer to and reflect as that was the perfect shot, it could not have got any better than that?

SERGIO GARCIA: I don't know. Fortunately, I think I am very fortunate to hit a good amount of good shots.

I would not say just one shot. I think, you know, some of the comebacks I've managed to get around, and one that comes to mind is Buick last year. To be six back with 12 holes to go, I think I had it and still managed to get around and win that tournament. That's always nice on a tough course like Westchester is.

I think that's one of most important things, you know, to see yourself do it over and over again and see that, you know, no matter where you are at the moment, or what position you are at that moment, you can still get around and give yourself a chance of winning.

Q. Could you address the state of professional golf right now? We have a situation where you won twice last year, Vijay had a breakthrough year, Phil had a breakthrough year, Tiger came back to the field, Ernie played -- we have a, whatever you said, big four, big five, whatever, there's a lot of big names kind of playing well right now. It's an exciting time for golf.

SERGIO GARCIA: Definitely, definitely. I think golf has been very fortunate for quite a while now. There's no doubt at the moment there's a lot of guys playing well. Of course probably two or three years ago, you know, Tiger was the one that was standing out, there was some other guys playing pretty well but I think right now at the moment, there's a bigger group playing quite well, you know, playing good golf and very good stuff. Retief Goosen is also there. There's no doubt that it's exciting to see what's going to happen and, you know, see how everything is going to go around.

But, I don't know, it seems like Tiger is swinging it a little bit better, too, so he'd probably have a decent year this year, but we'll try to keep it a bit down for him. (Laughter.)

Q. Just throwing out Augusta because obviously you go there every year, how do the other courses in the major rotation set up for you?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, unfortunately I haven't played Pinehurst and I haven't played Baltusrol. I mean, I've seen it and I've heard great things about it.

I'm really looking forward to playing Pinehurst and see. It could be an interesting week.

Majors are always amazing and you always look forward to coming back and playing. You know, they are tough and everybody says so but, you know, I always look forward to playing those. You know, it's what we work for and what we practice for. So it should be fun. It should be an exciting year.

Q. When Phil won the Masters, everyone went and searched to find the guy who was the best player to never win a major and I saw a couple publications where your name came up. Do you find that funny in that you're only 24 or complimentary in that they would think of you at age 24?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I can see it both ways. You know, I find it a bit funny because, you know, as you said, I'm 24, almost 25 and, you know, they are putting me on that list already. It's like, if you just got on TOUR and some people just got on tour who are 24, 25 years old and you can't just put them on that.

But it's also a good thing because they consider you a good golfer, a good player. You know, that's what you try. There's no doubt that, you know, I'm working hard to try to get my, hopefully majors, soon, but you know, it's something that you can't rush. You have to keep giving yourself chances and I said other years, there's some guys that are a bit more fortunate than that, they get one chance and, you know, they get through and there's some other guys that it takes them a bit longer.

You know, it always seems like right as you come out, in your first couple of years, you always get a chance. I had my chance. Unfortunately I went in front of a guy that, you know, played better than me that week.

But, you know, I think that I'm giving myself good opportunities of winning majors -- and, you know, that's all I can do at the moment and hopefully things will go my way in one of them. And as soon as the first one comes, it should be a bit easier.

Q. Do you think you get the respect you deserve?

SERGIO GARCIA: I think, yeah, I think we all do. Maybe sometimes we get a bit overlooked. I don't doubt that either. I can understand that you always look at whoever sells or moves the biggest crowds. But I'm not too worried about that. I've just got to keep playing well, and I know if I do, then I'll get what I deserve.

Q. Does it bother you? Obviously you mentioned a minute ago, it doesn't; you just go play, but does part of it bother you at all?

SERGIO GARCIA: Sometimes it might, like you feel like you're not well or you really don't get what you deserve, but it happens all the time to everybody, so it's no big deal.

Q. I think it's fair to say Seve's game is not what it once was.

SERGIO GARCIA: Really?

Q. Do you talk to him? Would you like to see -- plus in the last year or so he's had a couple of incidents, would you like to see him step away from competitive golf now for the sake of his legacy or keep playing?

SERGIO GARCIA: Unfortunately that's not my decision. I can't really tell what he should do and I think he knows what's best for him. The only thing I can say is it is a shame that, you know, to see a player of his caliber to not be able to play the golf he once did. You know, he was a really exciting player to watch and probably the guy with the most charisma I've ever seen on the golf course.

It is a shame, a bit of a shame on that, but I don't know when his right time to call it off is.

Q. If he were to call you tonight and say, "Sergio, I respect your advice on this matter," what would you say?

SERGIO GARCIA: I couldn't -- I can only say what I feel about myself and I don't think I'm anybody to tell anybody else what they should do.

I don't know, it's a hard call. I couldn't really put that much pressure on him to do one thing or the other.

Q. You talked last year about the friends you had back in Spain and how much it means for you to get back there. Have you sold your house at Nona?

SERGIO GARCIA: No.

Q. Do you plan to keep staying there?

SERGIO GARCIA: Definitely. I don't spend a lot of time. I can't, either, because, you know, I'm not a U.S. resident and I don't want to be at the moment. But I do enjoy my house there. I think it's great and I'm getting the bathrooms changed.

Q. You're having the bathrooms changed?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah. What's weird about that? (Laughter.)

Q. Nothing. Most people change the living room; not the bathroom. What are you doing to the bathroom?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, you spend all the time in the bathroom. You never shower or what? (Laughter.)

Q. I mean, are you putting a big screen in there?

SERGIO GARCIA: No, no, I watch TV on the couch. But, you know, I really like the house there. I think it's a great place. I'm surrounded by good friends, good golf friends and it's a nice place for me to come around and spend some time once in awhile, but, you know, I like to come back to Spain where I was born and also go to my place in Switzerland and spend some time there. It's just a good mix at the moment.

Q. How long have you had the place in Switzerland?

SERGIO GARCIA: For just over two years.

Q. And lastly, what kind of reception do you think Paul Casey gets the first two or three weeks on TOUR?

SERGIO GARCIA: We'll see. If he plays the Phoenix Open, it will be fun to see that. (Laughter.)

I don't know. I hope he gets a good reception. You know, I think Paul is a great guy and he's a good friend of mine. So hopefully I think everything -- I think everything got a bit blown out of proportion. He's a wonderful player. He deserves respect, so we'll see what happens.

Q. Lehman is the next U.S. captain. What's the word on the street as far as your next captain?

SERGIO GARCIA: I don't know. If I knew, I would love to tell you, but unfortunately I don't.

Q. What do you think about Lehman as a captain? What was your thought when he was named?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I think he's a wonderful person, great player. He's done a lot for golf and for Ryder Cups. So it should be fun to see how he handles it. We'll see. I don't know how he'll be as a captain. I'm not too worried about it either because he's not my captain. (Laughter.)

Q. There was some reaction early on when his name was mentioned, and Brookline gets brought up, and the things that happened there. If you don't have an answer for that, this is fine, but I was just curious why do you think it is that Lehman gets singled out for all the behavioral problems that went on at Brookline?

SERGIO GARCIA: Does he?

Q. It seemed that way early on. A couple comments, people mentioned Brookline.

SERGIO GARCIA: I don't know, I didn't --

Q. You have no answer to that? That's fine.

SERGIO GARCIA: No.

End of FastScripts.

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