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MERCEDES CHAMPIONSHIPS

January 2, 2002

Sergio Garcia

KAPALUA, HAWAII

TODD BUDNICK: Welcome Sergio Garcia to the Mercedes Championships for his first trip here. Sergio, winner of the MasterCard Colonial and Buick Classic last year, finished sixth on the Money List.

Tell us a bit about what you're looking forward to this year.

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, hopefully more of the same. You know, I'm still a little rusty, but I'm looking forward to play here for the first time ever.

Looking forward to play here. Let's see how it goes for the first time.

TODD BUDNICK: And are you enjoying your trip to Hawaii so far?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, it's been great. The place is unbelievable. The weather has been absolutely wonderful. So I'm looking forward to hopefully catch a helicopter ride or something like that to see something.

TODD BUDNICK: A place you'd like to come back to?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, of course, always. If you come back to Hawaii, it's always a good sign.

TODD BUDNICK: Questions.

Q. If you could point where someone that holds dual memberships, Europe and here, do you play the bare minimum here or there?

SERGIO GARCIA: Excuse me. I didn't hear.

Q. For someone who holds membership in both Tours, you have to play a minimum of events. Will you go the bare minimum in Europe or here? If you go over the minimum, is it likely to be in Europe or America?

SERGIO GARCIA: Here in America. If I go over the minimum, it will be here.

Q. Are you more of a US player that also has membership in Europe?

SERGIO GARCIA: I think I'm a little bit of both. But, yeah, I know that for me and for my career, I know that I have to play a little more in the States than in Europe to be able to be the best I can be.

Q. What is your schedule like? 15 here, 11 there?

SERGIO GARCIA: Similar to last year. 18 or 19 here, and 11 there.

Q. You recently said your goal is to win both Money Lists this year. That's a very high expectation. No one has come close to doing it. Do you think you're playing well enough to do it, obviously?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, if I say that I want to -- I didn't say I'm going to. I said I'd like to. More than anything, if I'm able to win both of them, it will be amazing, playing as little events as I've playing.

But if I'm able to win one of them with only the amount of tournaments I'm playing, it would be great.

You know, that's the expectations. You got to try to make them as high as you can so you're able to reach the closest to that goal that you have put on yourself. You know, if I ask myself to just make cuts, I'm probably going to miss a lot of them. If you ask yourself to win tournaments, you make a lot of cuts, you win some of them.

Q. Speaking of high expectations, have you ever thought about winning the Grand Slam one year?

SERGIO GARCIA: Four majors?

Q. Yeah.

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, of course, it crossed my mind. It's really tough. But, you know, if Tiger won four in a row, why not?

Q. Are players less intimidated by Tiger now? We ask this every year. We'll ask it again in 2002. Has the gap closed?

SERGIO GARCIA: I think that 2010 you'll still be asking that question (laughter).

Q. What's the answer for 2002?

SERGIO GARCIA: It is. The gap is a lot closer, I think. You saw it last year. You've seen -- of course, he's not playing as well as he played in 2000 or '99. But to play at that level your whole life, you've got to be unbelievable to do it.

But I think the gap is a little closer. That's good for everybody.

Q. Last month when I asked whether the gap closed, was it because Tiger closed or everyone didn't play better. He said, yourself, David Toms, play better, the gap closes, but there will always be a gap because Tiger is capable of more things than anybody else. Would you agree with that or not?

SERGIO GARCIA: I'll say he's capable of doing some things that some of us can't do, like hitting a 2-iron 270 yards straight up in the air and things like that. But I also think that we're able to do some things that maybe he can't do. I think that we can be as good as him. I mean, me, as I see myself almost 22 years old, you know, he's 26, I think that I can be as good as he is at 26 when I'm 26, or hopefully sooner.

Q. You said there's things you guys could do that he can't. What are some of those things?

SERGIO GARCIA: As myself, saying as myself, because I know which way I play. I know I can pull some shots that maybe he's not able to do. I mean, he can scramble around the trees pretty well. I've always felt like, you know, I can hit some shots -- more than hit it, I can see some shots that most of the people can't see, when I'm in trouble.

Q. You talked about yourself at 22 and Tiger at 26. Do you see any similarities between yourself now at 22 and when he was at 22? Do you think about that at all?

SERGIO GARCIA: No, I haven't really thought about it. I mean, at 22, he was really good. I don't think I'm as good as him at 22. But I think that I'm getting at that. You know, I think just keep trying hard and practicing hard, I can get to that, or at least close to that.

Q. Do you see the day when you can take up residence in the United States, kind of like Jesper has?

SERGIO GARCIA: Not soon, no (smiling).

Q. That's just because home is home to you?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah. You know, I love Spain. There's more things about that. You know, there's some things family-wise (smiling).

Q. Tiger seems to motivate you. Is that a correct read?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, of course. Yeah, I'm always excited of playing tournaments. When he's in the tournament, kind of keeps -- gives it a little extra spicy taste on it. You want to play against him and you want to beat him. If you're able to do that, your confidence is going to go higher. Anytime you win a tournament, it's great. You know, if he's there, you're able to beat him, you know, face to face, it's even better.

Q. Any other players that bring that out in you or is it just Tiger?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, of course, all the good players. Because Tiger is No. 1, he's the one you really focus on.

Q. One of the caddies who was in a practice round with you said your swing looks great, it looks tighter. Have you tightened up your swing since last year?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I've been working on it. Me and my dad, we've been working on it our whole lives. We just working on the same thing as we've been. You know, it actually feels good. It feels comfortable. You know, that's what I'm trying to do. But as I said, probably I said it last year, I say it this year -- sorry, 2001 and 2000 -- I mean, my swing is going to change as I get bigger and I get stronger. The lag will slowly go away. It's a thing that's always going to be there, but it will be smaller.

Q. Is it shorter now?

SERGIO GARCIA: I'd say so. I haven't seen myself for a bit, but I think it is a little. But it's not something that it's really on my mind. I know it's going to slowly go away.

Q. Is there a concern that this kind of wind would affect your swing, change it?

SERGIO GARCIA: Not really. Why should it?

Q. People make adjustments in this kind of wind. Sometimes it takes it down.

SERGIO GARCIA: I don't think so.

Q. You don't worry about it?

SERGIO GARCIA: Might knock down shots, and that's it (laughter). Sometimes it affects my swing and everybody's swing because, I mean, if it's really hard, you swing it, once you get here (shoulder high) the wind can pull your hands, mine's and everybody's. You can't be swinging it so tight that the wind is not going to do it. You're not going to be able to hit it well.

Q. You made an incredible comeback at Colonial last year. How did winning in that fashion and getting your first win in that way in that tournament boost your confidence?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, it really helped it. Being against Phil, you know, one of those things we were talking before, being against Phil, it's even better. It really gave me a lot of confidence, you know, relaxed me a little, too, knowing that I had my first win. Now things were going to be a little better.

Then I just kept playing well, kept winning tournaments. It was great. I just got to keep the same confidence this year, see what happens.

Q. When you contended at Southern Hills at the US Open, the telecast focused not only on how well you played but on all the regripping, the milking, so forth. When you're over, do you realize you're doing it that often? And it varies from time to time, there might be 18 here, 25 here.

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, it's not something that I really focus on. As I said before last year, Jack Nicklaus did about I don't know how many waggles when he was going to hit. I'm over the ball, I like to feel comfortable. As soon as I got everything right in my mind, that's when I hit it. So I don't know. That's the way it goes (smiling).

If I play this well, it shouldn't be that bad (laughter).

Q. I'm not criticizing.

SERGIO GARCIA: No, I'm just saying.

Q. Other players, other people tease you about it at all?

SERGIO GARCIA: Oh, once in a while they do. I tease them about some other things (smiling).

Q. You talked about maybe a building rivalry with Tiger, just at the stages of your career. How important is it to add Kapalua to the list of places you might be able to do that, having to win to get here?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, you know, it makes it that much better this tournament, because of that, because you know you have to win a tournament at least to be able to play here. You know that every year, not many people is going to have the chance of playing in this tournament. You know, that's what makes it so great.

But, you know, I just like playing in the tournaments he plays because, you know, he always plays good tournaments, and it's great to be able to have a chance of beating him in those tournaments.

Q. What are your impressions of the course, the wind that goes with it, and how does it affects your game?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I think it affects my game as much as it affects everybody. Maybe a little less, I'll say. You know, I'm usually pretty good with my knock-down shots, my punches, stuff like that. But I think the course, I mean, you can hit the ball so far sometimes in this course. It's unbelievable. So sometimes it's tough to make up your mind. Now that the course is drying up, you know, if the weather keeps like this, we're going to be hitting 2-irons 220 yards easy (laughter).

Q. You like the course so much that you have an endorsement with it or have your Titleist caps not come?

SERGIO GARCIA: My Titleist caps should be up there. The new ones were coming. Yesterday was holidays. They're not here yet (laughter).

Q. There's been so much written about --?

SERGIO GARCIA: It's a nice cap, though (laughter).

Q. There's been a lot written about the young guns. Do you find it funny that those guys are all older than you and people forget that you're still one of the youngest players out here?

SERGIO GARCIA: It is funny. I'll say more than anything, they're called young guns because they're young, first of all, they're brand-new on the tour. You know, I have one of the things, but not the other one. I'm young, but I'm not brand-new (laughter).

Q. Do you think it's fair to put some of these guys, in the same kind of comparison mode when they, A, haven't won meaningful tournaments or haven't contended in a major? Do you think you should do those things before you could be considered as a challenge to top players?

SERGIO GARCIA: I don't think you put anybody as high as Tiger. That's to start with. There's a big difference between that. I think, you know, it's great for them -- for you to be able to do that, to say the young guns are coming out.

I think what Tiger has done, it's unbelievable. I don't think many people can do it.

Q. But you consider yourself a legitimate challenge to Tiger, right?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah.

Q. Why? Because you've done what?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I don't know (smiling)? Once in a while I hit a ball, I go after it.

Q. Challenge at the PGA, for one.

SERGIO GARCIA: I think I've done things. I mean, I've beat him. I beat him head to head. I beat him in some tournaments. I almost beat him at the PGA. I won tournaments with him around.

Q. Ryder Cup.

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah. More than anything, I consider myself a challenge because I'm younger than him. You know, I mean, I haven't done the things he's done, but give me four years (smiling).

Q. I'm not questioning that. I'm saying it seems like you've done a lot to earn this mention as a rival. Are people just anxious to get Tiger a rival they'll go looking for anybody?

SERGIO GARCIA: Probably so. That's probably one thing. Everybody wants to find a rival for him. You know, we're all trying our best.

Q. Last year a big step up for you winning twice here, do you feel you're almost at a different level?

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, for sure. I feel like more than anything -- more than anything I felt last year, you -- now I get to some courses, and I play them, and I think, three years ago I couldn't hit this shot here, I couldn't hit that shot, I wouldn't have planned this shot as well. You mature and you get better, you work the ball better. You have in your mind a little clearer what kind of shot you want to hit. You're not just thinking about ripping it with the driver. You're thinking, to a dogleg right hole, instead of hitting a rib draw, I'm going to hit a cut, hit it in the fairway, from there try to make birdie. Those are the things you learn as they come with the age.

Q. What can you do now that you couldn't do when you burst on the scene in '99?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, I think I have more shots in my bag now. I can control my fade a lot better than what I used to. I actually use it a lot more than what I used to. You know, my short-iron has gotten better, my distance control has been better. Putting has been better, too. But more than anything, it's those kind of things. Just course knowledge. I think it's improved quite a lot.

Q. Back to the age question. Is it simply a matter of we're talking about all these young guys, we know they're good, but there's still no substitute for experience? Maybe you're an example. Turned pro at 19, were very good. You know you're getting better now. How valuable is that couple years' experience?

SERGIO GARCIA: It's great. That's what it's all about. That's why you turn pro. You turn pro because, you know, you think that you've done whatever you wanted to do in the amateur course. You want to get to the next level to gain the experience and to get your game to a higher level. That's why you try to go step by step.

You know, I hopefully think - and I'm pretty sure it will be - when I'm 25, I hope I'm better than what I am right now. It all has to do with those kind of things.

Q. I thought you turned pro because of the money.

SERGIO GARCIA: No. I didn't have a contract like Tiger's (smiling).

Q. When you look at the four major courses, they're almost all new. Augusta is redone. Are you familiar with Bethpage or with Hazeltine?

SERGIO GARCIA: No.

Q. Have you played Muirfield?

SERGIO GARCIA: I have played Muirfield. I won the British Open there -- British Amateur. It's a great course.

Q. You must be looking forward to that?

SERGIO GARCIA: I'm really looking forward to it. As soon as I won the British Amateur in '98, they told me, "They play the British Open in 2002." I said, "Jesus, I hope I be here." Looks like I'm going to be, if injuries permit it. I'm really looking forward to that. I'm looking forward to play Augusta, too, with the new changes. It's going to be hit tough hitting long irons to those greens.

Q. Will you take a look at Augusta earlier?

SERGIO GARCIA: I'll try my best.

Q. What advantage is there to look at the course in February when the conditions are completely different than what they'll be in April? Do you get anything out of it?

SERGIO GARCIA: Well, you do. More than anything, just to see some of the new stuff they're doing, maybe some lines have changed because of the new tees and stuff like that. Sometimes it's nice.

You can always move the ball forward and hit it for more or less what you're going to hit it in April (laughter).

Q. The majors, you seem more of a threat going in this year. Do you feel that way in your head? Will you put more emphasis on The Majors?

SERGIO GARCIA: I've always put a lot of emphasis - maybe too much. I'm really looking forward to them. I think my game is getting to a point where I can have chances of winning them. I'm really, really looking forward to them. See what we can do.

You still got to get the week. Even if you play well, it has to be your week to be able to win. We'll see what happens.

Q. Who do you think is the best player to have never won a major, Mickelson or Montgomerie?

SERGIO GARCIA: I'll say Mickelson.

Q. Why?

SERGIO GARCIA: I think he's better.

Q. Do you think he's better than you?

SERGIO GARCIA: Mickelson?

Q. Yes.

SERGIO GARCIA: Yeah, for sure he's better than me. He's won more tournaments than me. TODD BUDNICK: Thank you.

End of FastScripts....

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