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THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP

March 19, 2002

Sergio Garcia

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA

TODD BUDNICK: Welcome, Sergio Garcia, to THE PLAYERS Championship press room.

SERGIO GARCIA: Thank you.

TODD BUDNICK: You're winner of the Mercedes Championships this year, playing your third appearance here at the TPC at Sawgrass. You've missed a cut and finished in a tie for 50th. You are probably looking for more out of this week?

SERGIO GARCIA: For sure. But as you all know, this is a really difficult course, and the way it's set up and everything, it's tough.

But I'm looking forward to hopefully a good week.

My putting is coming along slowly, and last week, I felt like I hit the ball quite well. But unfortunately, things didn't go the way I wanted to. But other than it was good.

TODD BUDNICK: You just finished up with a practice round. What did you think of the course?

SERGIO GARCIA: I couldn't play 1,2 and 18. The greens were really surprisingly soft. I don't know if they will water; if they don't water them today and tomorrow, they should be firm. It's supposed to rain, so we'll see what happens. But if it doesn't rain, it's going to be as tough as always.

Q. I saw Charles on the putting green on Sunday, and he had a putter with your name stamped on the bottom of it. I know you guys are friends, but how did he manage to steal it out of your bag when you weren't looking?

SERGIO GARCIA: He actually didn't steal it.

He really liked the shape of putter that I had before, the round one. I had one that week, and, you know, I showed it to him and I said, "Well, I'm not going to use it, if you want to take a look and maybe practice a little with it and see how you like it, you can have it."

So he borrowed it. I wasn't expecting him to play it in the tournament, but they told me that he did on Sunday.

Q. And he shot 82.

SERGIO GARCIA: (Grimaces) I don't know. They were not all with the putter, I hope. (Laughter.) It happens.

Q. The Spanish players typically have not fared well on this course, is there a reason why? The unfamiliarity of the layout, not used to playing on such a track like this?

SERGIO GARCIA: I don't know. I cannot give you a reason why. But one thing is for sure: You have to drive it well here. If you don't, coming out of the rough, if you save par, you're a happy man. Most of the times you're not even going to be able to do that. So it's really important to drive it well.

So, you know, probably Seve and Olazabal, he's driving the ball a lot better now, but the years before, he wasn't driving the ball well; so it's tough to do well.

But, you know, I think that he's driving it better, and I'm driving it quite well, too. So if we're able to get ourselves together and hit some good shots into the greens, it should be okay.

Q. Which major championship does this one remind you of? Is it more like a U.S. Open?

SERGIO GARCIA: U.S. Open, yeah.

SERGIO GARCIA: There's no doubt, because, narrow fairways, high rough and really firm greens. It fits just in the U.S. Open type of course.

Q. Sergio, back here in the back. You know, you had such success when you were younger. Some of us forget how long you played pressure tournament golf, but would you say you were able to beat anybody then, but would you say you're really just starting to learn what this professional tour is all about nowadays?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I've been learning -- I've kind of been learning through my whole career. One thing is for sure: I know now things that I didn't know before. So I'm a lot smarter on the golf course, my game plan is a lot better. That's why I usually make less mistakes than what I used to.

You know, that's what it's all about, just gaining experience and confidence, and that's what I've been doing for the last three or four years.

Q. A lot of the guys who have won here talk about how important it's been to play well here first and be in the hunt of things, and then a year or two down the road win it. Can you come -- after mentioning the struggles you've had here, can you win, without having a Top-10 finish?

SERGIO GARCIA: If I play well, for sure, I can.

Of course, it's a tough week and you've got to realize that. But it's not any different from any other week. The course plays tougher, and the scores, they are going to be higher, but you've just got to realize that and just go on with it. Yeah, I've won before, so this year may be different.

Q. As a follow-up to an earlier question about things you've learned, could you be a little more specific and talk about some of the things that you've had to learn, which of those have been the most important to your success?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, about playing, I've learned to maneuver the ball a lot better than what I used to. So I'm able to hit the ball many different ways now. I used to hit the ball really high with the irons; and before I had trouble, and now I know how, to draw and fade the ball quite nicely. And, of course, I've always known how to hit it low. Those are the things that are important, when you are over a shot and you know that you have those many -- those many options of hitting the ball, it makes it, I think, easier. Because you are not like, "Wow, I can only hit a fade." You're standing there thinking, if I'm trying to get it too close to the left, I'm going to fade it and it's going to go in the rough, or a draw and it's going to go in the middle of the green. To know those things, of course, it's better. But more than anything, it's just patience. I learned to be a little more patient over things, some things that I'm not really aware of and keep trying and not let down. But those are little things you just learn through time.

Q. How much has your driving improved since '99, early '99?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, as you can see on the stats, it's improved a lot.

Q. What's behind that?

SERGIO GARCIA: Practice, confidence. I've always felt like I was a good driver of the ball, but, I don't know, I feel nowadays that I just -- I don't know, I just can drive the ball so nicely.

Q. Anything swing-related?

SERGIO GARCIA: For sure. If I'm swinging the ball better, it's easier to do what you want to do. If you're over the ball thinking, "Well, I want to hit a fade," and I know it's going to come out a fade, I just know that you have to move to the left, or center left of the fairway it's going to cut. If you're over the ball thinking, "I want to hit a fade, but I don't know if it's going to come out a fade" -- so, swing-related, of course, has been getting better.

Q. Does it amaze you, Butch Harmon was saying last weekend that Tiger will use Bay Hill and come here sometimes and hit shots on the course during live fire, more tailored to Augusta, versus maybe what necessarily might be the best shot that day on that hole. Do you know of anybody else that has --?

SERGIO GARCIA: I don't think so. I don't think that's true.

Q. You don't believe that?

SERGIO GARCIA: No.

Q. It doesn't make sense, does it?

SERGIO GARCIA: No, I don't think so. Because when you're over the ball at Bay Hill or at TPC, you're thinking about winning Bay Hill and TPC, and you're thinking about hitting the best shot for that moment. You're not thinking, "Well, this is the shot I'm going to hit on the 16th at Augusta." (Laughter.)

I mean, you want to hit that shot, just go to Augusta and hit it. (Laughter.)

Q. You talked about you want to win the money title here in the States and also on the European Tour. Are you happy with where you are at this point, as far as accomplishing those goals?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I would love to be a little -- I feel like it should be better than where I am. I'm in a good position. I don't know, I must be sixth or seventh or something like that. So I'm not in a bad position, but I really feel like, you know, with the start I had and the way I've played, I should be a little better than where I really am.

I had a bad finish at Doral and probably could have finished Top-10 if I would have birdied one of the last four holes, but I finished bogey, par, bogey, bogey. And then last week, I had a bad Sunday without playing really that bad.

So, you know, I like where I am because it's the best start I've had so far. But, you know, I'd love to be a little better if possible.

Q. What are your thoughts on 17? Do you like it? Do you think it's a good golf hole?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, I think it's great. Any golf hole that -- we usually have so many 150-yard shots, that you are thinking about hitting it to this (indicating six inches).

Any golf hole you get to the tee and you think, "Just hit it on the green, from 150 yards," it has to be good. It makes you think a lot.

Yeah, I think the green is fair. I think for the hole it is, it's a fair green. And it's tricky, with the wind and everything, it gets around your head. It's good.

Q. Just taking a whole picture, you're looking at a section of the green, aren't you?

SERGIO GARCIA: Where?

Q. Any par 3. Take Bay Hill, for example, No. 2, if the pin is left, you're looking --?

SERGIO GARCIA: I don't know how to hit it. I can't hit it on that green. I don't think anybody can hit on that green. (Laughter.)

Q. Nobody did. But normally a par 3, are you looking at a section of the green, if not the stick? You don't do that at all on 17? You're not looking at --?

SERGIO GARCIA: Of course. When the pin is on the front, you know, you're looking at hitting it -- probably trying to make birdie that day, if you hit a good shot and get it back down the hill. But then, as soon as the greens start to get firmer and they put the pin on the back, it starts getting tricky. Because if you hit a little soft and it bounces on the slope, it's going to stay short; and if you bounce it on top too close to the pin, it's going to go on the water probably on the second or third bounce. So it gets tricky.

But that's the beauty of the hole. If that hole would have no water, it would be nothing. It would be so easy. It would be just a soft 9-iron or just a hard wedge. But that way, it makes you think so much, and actually, you could hit what you think is a great shot and make double-bogey.

Q. Just pretend there's no water there.

SERGIO GARCIA: That's what you try. (Laughter.)

Q. Do you think it's fair, though, that a guy could be playing terrific golf for 70 holes and have maybe a three-shot lead and come to one hole and it just gets goofy and end up with a very big number?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah. That shows you that maybe he didn't deserve to be in that position, if he's not able to handle the 17th hole. Until you make the putt on 18 -- we're talking about 17. What about 18? That's two good holes to finish with.

Yeah, I think you should be able to handle any hole on the golf course. I think if the green was unfair, then it would be -- if that hole was 175 yards or 180 yards, then I would say, "Geez, that's maybe a little too much." But I think it's the perfect yardage for the kind of hole it is.

Q. Is your strategy to just make par and get out of there? Are you trying to hit the middle of the green regardless of where the pin is?

SERGIO GARCIA: It all depends on how you feel and we'll see how the greens are. If the greens -- if the greens on Thursday are like it looks like it might be, the greens are going to be softer; so you're going to be able to attack it. If the greens start getting as firm as they usually are, yeah, you make 3 on that hole and you are a happy man.

Q. If someone told you right now you could have 12 strokes and be done for the week, you'd take it?

SERGIO GARCIA: I probably would, yeah.

Q. How many times have you been in the water?

SERGIO GARCIA: I think only once. Once in six rounds. Actually, my first -- my first round, I hit in the water. (Smiles).

Q. You are a pretty aggressive player normally. When you get in a tough situation and you have a risky shot, what goes into your factors for determining whether you're going to go for it, or do you weigh the pain versus the gain, or do you just say, "I'm going for it regardless"?

SERGIO GARCIA: Depends on different things. Of course, depends on what position I am in the tournament. If I have to attack because I'm behind and I need to make birdie or no more than par, that's the easiest way to save par. Of course, that can make a difference.

But if I feel I can pull out a shot, that's the biggest deal. It doesn't matter how tough or how easy the shot it is, if you feel like you can -- sometimes you just don't feel comfortable hitting that shot. It's not going to go well.

So, of course, it depends on the position I am in the tournament, and also, how I feel over the ball and with that shot.

Q. But not being afraid to fail is a big part of it; right?

SERGIO GARCIA: No. You take risk, and sometimes it goes right and sometimes it doesn't. But you take it with all of the consequences.

Q. How comfortable did you feel over that shot at Medinah?

SERGIO GARCIA: That's why I hit it, because I felt like I could do it. I had a tough shot last year at THE TOUR Championship on the last round on 13 -- no, actually, on the third round -- on the fourth round, 13. The pin was back right and I hit it -- well, whatever. I hit it right with a driver. I'm thinking it was Saturday and I hit it right with a driver and I had a little gap and I had to hit like a little low, and then high 7-iron and draw in and carry the bunker and the pin was just on the slope and stuff. So I wanted to hit that shot, and actually, Glenn talked me out of it.

But then, I started thinking about it, and I realized that maybe the risk was too high for what I was going to get. So we actually ended up chipping it out to the fairway and then hitting a sand wedge to about six feet and making it for par.

So, you know, it all depends. If you have any doubts about pulling out the shot, it's better not to do it. Because then you're not thinking about the shot; you're thinking about what can happen and that's not good.

Q. What do you think of Mickelson's play on 16 Sunday?

SERGIO GARCIA: I was still playing. I didn't see it. What happened?

Q. Didn't see highlights?

SERGIO GARCIA: He drove it on the right, didn't he? What did he hit?

Q. He had to go up the leaves and kind of under and around the tree with a 4-iron.

SERGIO GARCIA: And he hit in the water.

Q. Yeah.

SERGIO GARCIA: I don't know. If he felt like he could do it -- he wanted to skip it over the water. (Laughs) I don't know, I mean, you have to be in that position to see. Maybe he had a shot and didn't hit a good shot and just hit in the water.

Q. Sergio, is it my imagination --?

SERGIO GARCIA: Is it has to be. It has to be. (Laughter.)

Q. This is the first of a two-part question. Have you gotten taller and a little stronger, bulkier looking? Are you working out more?

SERGIO GARCIA: You think so? Thank you. (Laughter.)

Q. Tell me about it.

SERGIO GARCIA: Actually, you're not the first one that tells me. Yeah, somebody a couple days ago told me if I got a little taller; I don't know. I haven't measured myself. I have been working out a little; so I'm a little heavier than what I used to be. So, yeah, a little bit.

Q. Second question. Somebody told me that as you learn how to serve really well in tennis, it will increase your driving accuracy; is that true?

SERGIO GARCIA: That's the first time I've heard that. (Laughter.)

I'm not serving that great on tennis, so I don't think so. (Laughs).

Q. The first week of the year which you won and you were talking about being the leading money winner on both tours, what sort of progress are you making towards that? Do you think that's still a possibility? Here we are in March.

SERGIO GARCIA: It is. I said it there and I said it before, and I always said, it's tough. But it's possible.

I just got to win the right tournaments. But I do think it's possible. It's difficult, and I said it there, too, if I don't win both, of course, I would like to win one. One would be great. But the goal is that one and that's the one I'm going to try.

Q. Are you going to play Seve Trophy, or is that going to get in the way of the Money List?

SERGIO GARCIA: Actually, I'm going to go play Hilton Head.

Q. Obviously, you can't concern yourself too much with Tiger, but last year he wins Bay Hill and then comes here and then at Augusta; and you see him win Bay Hill last year, somewhere in the back of your mind, do you think, "He's at it again"?

SERGIO GARCIA: No, because if he does it, he'll win Atlanta. That would be the week . (Laughter.) So for the Masters, I'll be okay.

Q. Do you think that he's on his game?

SERGIO GARCIA: He played better last week -- well, the first two days, I don't know, he hit nine greens on the first day and shot 67. That's pretty good stuff. Then on the second day, he played unbelievable at Bay Hill. But then the third day, he got a little shaky; started missing fairways again. I don't think that last day he played as great as he played on the second day.

But for sure, he's playing better. You know, he's very beatable. I really felt like last week, I could have got him quite easily if I would have been able to hold it on Saturday, and after shooting 4-under par on the front. Then I 3-putt 11; you know, wasn't able to make birdie on 12; and then I think I bogeyed 14, I think.

So, I did have my chance. Unfortunately, I didn't take it. You know, it looks like he's playing a little better.

Q. I think you made the statement something to the effect a few weeks ago that, you know, the rest of the Tour, maybe you feel that about your game, that you've caught up to Tiger and the point where you feel more comfortable in situations where you're head-to-head with him?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, for sure. Myself, I do feel that way. I think I've improved a lot, and because I'm comfortable with myself. When I'm on the golf course, I know sometimes of course I hit bad shots like everybody else, but I really feel like I can pull the right shot almost every time.

Q. How often do you plan to play in Europe this year? Do you have any leeway in your schedule if you look towards the later part of the season that you could win the European Money List? Do you have room for maneuver that you could add in a European event if that was still a goal?

SERGIO GARCIA: That's a good question. Well, hopefully, I'll get myself in that position; and if I do, then I'll have to think about it.

But as many tournaments I'm playing all over the world, you know, I have my 11 planned to play in Europe, and depending how it goes, we'll see what happens. I don't know yet.

Q. Have you told Seve yet about not playing?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah.

Q. What was his reaction?

SERGIO GARCIA: It was okay. He understood. That's the way it goes sometimes. Unfortunately, if I have a clone, I'll be able to play everywhere every week, but unfortunately there's only one Sergio Garcia.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Sergio.

SERGIO GARCIA: Thanks.

End of FastScripts....

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