Try as he might, Sergio Garcia simply can't help from crippling himself just as he has the chance to realize even a sliver of the great promise his career once held.
Entering the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship with a two-shot lead and set to rocket up the playoff rankings toward a first-ever FedEx Cup championship, Garcia did what he typically does—he collapsed under a mountain of pressure while poised at the doorstep of great opportunity.
The talented-but-frustrating Spaniard hit the ball all over the vulnerable TPC Boston layout Monday and limped home to a two-over 73. As a result, he finished five shots behind winner Henrik Stenson, who moved to the top of the FedEx standings with his first PGA Tour win since the 1999 Players Championship.
The agonizing effort cost Garcia not only a shot at his first PGA Tour victory in more than a year, but also an opportunity to move into the top three in the playoff standings with only two events left to play in the 2013 playoffs.
More importantly, the Monday meltdown was more par for the course than random hiccup for the once-promising Garcia. In fact, since he leaped onto the scene with a second-place finish at the 1999 PGA Championship, no other golfer of his era has delivered less in the face of so much potential than Garcia has.
Since that '99 PGA at Medinah where the then-19-year-old nearly chased down Tiger Woods in an effort to deny him a second major title, there have been flashes of brilliance that have ended far too often in fizzle rather than fireworks.
Granted, Garcia has won eight PGA Tour titles, and there are thousands of present and former professionals who would ache for those wins.
Not since his own idol Seve Ballesteros was defying logic on the links has there been a golfer with the type of imagination, energy and flair that Garcia brings to the course every round.
Yet considering how much promise he had when he arrived on the scene nearly 15 years ago and how many times he has teased us with flashes of brilliance, the current resume is thin at best.
In fact, the litany of missteps and miscues are far more telling than the Spaniard's accomplishments.
On the course, he's faltered in the final round of multiple majors, including the waggle debacle in the 2002 U.S. Open and back-to-back British Open failures in 2006 and 2007. In the process, he's pouted, spit, blamed and even outwardly questioned his own ability to win on golf's biggest stage at the 2012 Masters.
Things haven't been any better off the course, either. The Spaniard picked fights with American golf fans (never a good idea, especially in New York), has pursued—and lost—an enduring feud with Tiger Woods and reached a low of lows with racially insensitive remarks uttered earlier this year toward the world's top golfer.
The end result, at least up to now, is a career far more marred by frustrating failure than headlined by significant victory. Monday's round at TPC Boston was a microcosm of that 14-year rugged reality.
On Saturday and Sunday, Garcia was the best player in the talented Deutsche Bank field, bar none. He fired a flawless second-round 64, culminated with an eagle on the 18th to surge into the lead.
In Sunday's third round, he followed with an equally impressive 65 to hold off a myriad of challengers heading into the final round.
On both days, Garcia was long and accurate off the tee and, most importantly, was dialed in on the greens. He made key putts throughout both rounds and seemed to have a swagger and confidence about him that we haven't seen in some time.
That form, however, never made it to the course on Monday when the chips were really on the table. Instead, the unsure and unsteady Garcia showed in its place.
After a head-scratching three-putt for a six on the relatively easy par-five second hole, Garcia sent an approach shot into the deep woods to the left of the fourth green and was lucky to hack out en route to a second bogey in a stretch of opening holes known better for opportunity than survival.
A birdie on the fifth seemed to settle things, but two more bogeys on the way out sent Garcia to a front-nine 39, which all but squashed his chances of a first win in 2013 just as Stenson was busy surging past him.
To be fair, Garcia can be an easy target for criticism. But in 2013, he's absolutely begged for it while falling to deeper depths as his own worst enemy.
Then came the now infamous war of words with Tiger at TPC Sawgrass this past May. Predictably, that confrontation ended on Sunday with another Woods victory when Garcia drowned his golf ball short of the island green on 17...twice over.
A little more than a week later, Garcia launched headlong into "Chickengate."
With his racially insensitive remarks regarding what he would serve Woods in an imaginary meal, Garcia lost any hope of a breakthrough 2013 season. Instead, he suffered through a difficult summer in which he failed to contend in a single major and dodged the spotlight at every turn.
Yet heading into Monday's final round at TPC Boston, it appeared as if Garcia had regained his early season form and was poised to become a significant figure in the homeward stretch of the FedEx Cup.
A victory would have eased the pain of his difficult summer and revived hope that better days were indeed ahead of the gifted Spaniard.
Instead, Garcia showed the other, more dominant side of himself. He promptly played his way out of contention and right back to where he was when the FedEx Cup started two weeks ago—a playoffs afterthought.
Unfortunately, it's the script Garcia has authored the majority of his career, which continues to head down a dark road of disappointment even while we all wonder just how it got started on that confounding course to begin with.
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