Garcia could be sleeper of 1999 tourney

Victory would make teen legitimate, bigger hit


August 15, 1999|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

MEDINAH, Ill. -- Sergio Garcia is like many teen-agers: He has no trouble sleeping.

Whether it was after taking the first-round lead at the 81st PGA Championship or after moving back in contention at Medinah Country Club with a 4-under par 68, the 19-year old from Spain doesn't have trouble shutting his eyes.

"I slept perfect the first night," Garcia said last night. "I've always said I'm pretty lucky because I sleep very well everywhere and anytime. Sometimes going to the airport with my dad when I'm going to make a trip, I always fall asleep. Also in the airplane."

About the only place Garcia doesn't nod off is on the golf course. After falling out of the lead by following a first-round 66 with a second-round 73, Garcia found himself slipping out of contention.

"I saw myself on the ninth and I was 6-under at the time and I was like eighth or seventh," said Garcia. "I thought, `You have to do something here.' I have to finish better than this."

Garcia did. The player European fans have called "El Nino" made three birdies on the back nine to pull within two shots of third-round co-leaders Tiger Woods and Mike Weir.

It put him in position to become the youngest champion to win a major since 20-year-old Gene Sarazen won the 1922 PGA.

"I haven't been in that position," said Garcia. "I know it's a major, but I'm taking it as another tournament. If I win it, it will be better than a normal tournament. But I can't tell you that feeling because I haven't felt it."

And how did Garcia expect to sleep last night?

"I'll probably sleep better tonight [than Thursday] because I am -- how do you say more tired? -- I'm exhausted today."

Ryder stock slipping

If the profile of a Ryder Cup player is supposed to include the ability to withstand the most intense pressure the sport can offer, then the performance of several here doesn't bode well for their being at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., when the biennial event begins there next month.

Jeff Maggert, whose victory earlier this year at the $5 million World Match Play Championship boosted more than his bank account, will have to sweat out the next day to see if he can hang onto the 10th and final automatic spot on the 12-man team.

Maggert was one of several prominent Ryder Cup hopefuls to miss the cut. He needs Bob Estes and Chris Perry to not move any higher on the scoreboard. Estes is three shots out of fifth after an even-par 72 yesterday; Perry is four shots out of sixth after also shooting 72.

Tom Lehman, who needs to finish ninth or higher to displace Maggert, fell way back with a 76.

"I've got a lot on the line," said Perry, who came into the PGA Championship at No. 13 on the Ryder Cup points' list, one spot ahead of Estes and two ahead of Steve Pate. "Ben [Crenshaw] said all along that he is going to go with people who are playing well. That's one plus for me. I've played well for two years."

No ifs, ands or putts

After shooting a 3-under 69 Friday and moving onto the leader board, Senior Tour star and five-time Ryder Cup player Hale Irwin was being by some as a possible long-shot pick by Crenshaw. A prominent Chicago columnist suggested that Crenshaw choose Irwin just to give players such as Woods and David Duval a role model.

That talk ended yesterday when Irwin three-putted for bogey twice in the first six holes and finished with a 6-over par 78.

"I couldn't tell you if was putting with a 2-iron or a wedge or a putter," said Irwin, 54. "My feel was just not there."

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