You remember the No. 42. That was the number of majors Phil Mickelson played in before he won the 2004 Masters. That's the amount of frustration, heartbreak and second-guessing “Lefty” endured before he got that Jackie Robinson off his back.
Garcia is only 28 years old. Mickelson was 33 when he hit the 42 mark. Perhaps there is more disappointment ahead for Garcia, or perhaps he is on the verge of something. Perhaps he'll never reach 42.
“I think as sports fans, you're always going to feel sorry for the guy who finishes second; that's human nature,” said Padraig Harrington, who won his second major in succession on Sunday and became the first European player ever to do so. “But as a fellow golfer, a fellow professional, I feel sorry (for Garcia). There's enormous pressure on his shoulders.”
That pressure has been building ever since this same tournament took place at Medinah Country Club in 1999. Ever since the 19-year old Garcia closed his eyes and hit that improbable shot from behind a tree, ever since “El Nino” galloped up the fairway and nearly chased down Tiger Woods.
He was second that day at Medinah, just as he was second at the British Open last year, just as he tied for second at Oakland Hills on Sunday. Garcia has finished top five in nine majors during his still young career. And yet, expectations notwithstanding, close calls aside, he is 41 majors in without a trophy.
“You know, I said it before,” Garcia said. “There's guys that get a little bit fortunate, they get in contention in a major and manage to get things going their way. Because they play well, or because somebody else comes back. And unfortunately, it hasn't happened to me. I feel like I played well enough to win more than ... probably more than two majors throughout my career. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened.
“That doesn't mean that I'm not on the right track. So I'm looking forward to the challenges. I'm just going to keep giving it my best, and it's just a matter of time.”
For a long while at Oakland Hills on Sunday, it looked as if it might be this time. Garcia finished off a 69 in the morning and jumped to the lead with steady resolve in the afternoon. When Ben Curtis hit a snag, bogeying three holes in a five-hole stretch, the Spaniard had the lead.
Curtis was wearing Detroit Lions gear in order to garner the home crowd. But it turned out to be a typical Sunday for the Lions, who have not had a winning season since 2000. And as Curtis faded, the galleries looked elsewhere. The tournament fell in the lap of the second-to-last grouping, which included Harrington and Garcia.
Suddenly, it was 2007 and Carnoustie all over again. Garcia even hit a flagpole with an approach shot at No. 15, just as he did in the playoff at Carnoustie. “I was happy to see that at least this time it stayed on the green,” Garcia said. “But unfortunately, it didn't stray in the cup.”
At Oakland Hills Country Club
Scenes from golf’s final major, taking place at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Township, Mich.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.