There was reason to believe the outcome would be different this time. Garcia was playing bogey-free golf through 15 holes. His putter was solid, his demeanor was confident, his major seemed just around the corner.
“This was Oakland Hills, there was no Carnoustie here,” Garcia said. “It's a different major and, you know, I gave it all that I had.”
But at No. 16, he aimed for the middle of the green instead of the left side. He toyed with the water on the right and the water made him pay. A 6-iron hit the bank short of the green and caromed back into the pond. The bogey erased Garcia's one-stroke lead with two holes to play.
“I'm not going to get on the 16th hole and try to hit it 40 yards left of the green,” Garcia said. “I mean, that's not the way I play. I tried to put a good, solid swing to the middle of the green and ... I came out of it just a touch and it just went in the water.”
Yes, but when you have the lead in a major, maybe you should hit it 40 yards left of the green, just in case you do come out of it “just a touch.” Maybe you let the other guy roll the dice. Maybe that's how you win one of these things. Harrington left his shot in a bunker left of the green, from where he got up and down to save par.
Still, it would be unfair to suggest Garcia shamelessly lost this last major of 2008, the 41st major of his career. It would be unfair to Harrington, who carded a third-round 66 to get in contention and fourth-round 66 to get into the history books. The 36-year old Irishman became the first European-born player to win the PGA since 1930, and he did it on his own merit.
He did with a spectacular birdie at No. 17, a 10-foot putt in the heart of the cup. Garcia's short birdie roll, half the length of Harrington's, slid off the edge. Harrington went out and won the PGA on Sunday.
Garcia tried to win it. There have been a lot of majors over the years where his final-round 68 on a course as difficult as Oakland Hills would have done the trick.
“I feel like to shoot 69-68 on the last two rounds at a major on a course like this, I think it's pretty positive. So you know, a lot of good things. When you give it your best and the end result is not what you wish for, you know it's hard. But you have to feel good that you gave it your best.”
That's 41 majors down for Sergio Garcia. The best he can do now is avoid No. 42.
At Oakland Hills Country Club
Scenes from golf’s final major, taking place at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, Mich.