U.S. Open Storylines: Sergio Garcia Returns To Bethpage Black

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U.S. Open Storylines: Sergio Garcia Returns To Bethpage Black
(Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)

As Frank Sinatra famously said about New York, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere."

Well, suffice it to say that Sergio Garcia will not be wearing an "I Heart New York" shirt anytime soon.

New York crowds are not an easy thing to handle, especially when you get on their bad side. Garcia has not always handled adversity well in the past.

These two factors led to a perfect storm in 2002 at Bethpage Black during the U.S. Open.

Garcia was trying to mount a charge against Tiger Woods. Not only did he have to overcome the difficult conditions, he had to overcome the crowd.

The famous "yips" in the swing that once plagued Garcia became perfect fodder for the fans in the gallery.

Members actually began to count the times Garcia would re-grip the club and those waggles helped lead to a final round 74. His disappointing fourth place finish still ranks as his second best finish ever in the U.S. Open, but it was clearly a missed opportunity.

Well seven years have passed and Garcia is still seeking that elusive first major.

He is only 29 years old, not even in the prime of his golfing career, but as the most successful player in his age group, the target on his back has becoming increasingly large.

Garcia is a victim of his own success. 

Forever immortalized by his running down the fairway in the 1999 PGA Championship, we knew early on that this young man was destined for greatness.

His victory at The Players in 2007, considered "The Fifth Major," combined with near misses in the Open and PGA Championship to Padraig Harrington have only added fuel to the fire that the Spaniard is precariously close to capturing a major title.

Will this be the year that Garcia breaks through and wins over the New York crowd and captures the 2009 U.S. Open?

It's not as preposterous as it may sound.

Even though the U.S. Open is considered the hardest test in golf, it has become a feeding ground for first-time major winners.

Only six men have won the U.S. Open this decade, and Woods was the only one to not make the U.S. Open his first major victory.

In fact, besides Woods, Payne Stewart is the only golfer in the past 15 years to have won the U.S. Open after breaking through at another major.

If Michael Campbell can do it, why can't Garcia?

To be fair though, of the four majors, this has not been his best.

Of the nine times he has played in the U.S. Open, he has only made the top 10 twice.  Only three times has he made the top 15.

However, as mentioned before, he finished fourth last time this tournament was held at Bethpage Black and he has the experience to combat some of those weekend demons that have battled him in the past.

The question is whether Garcia will be in a position to contend come Sunday.

Garcia has not exactly come out of the gates hot. In his eight PGA tour events in 2009, his best finish has been a tie for 13th.

His current FedEx Cup ranking is 141 and he missed the cut last week at the St. Jude Classic.

In other words, he will not be the trendy pick to win it all.

However, the beauty of golf is that it just takes one week of great golf to turn not only a season around, but a career.

As Phil Mickelson and Harrington have proved, once a golfer can capture the first major the floodgates seem to open. Garcia has always had the game to be a major champion and picking up one would certainly give him the confidence to be a major factor for years to come.

Considering what happened in 2002, all eyes will be on Garcia for better or worse.

Either fans will see a triumph or a train wreck.

You can imagine Europe will be rooting for the young phenom.

The last European golfer who took home the U.S. Open was the Brit Tony Jacklin way back in 1970.

Combine that with a disappointing show in the Ryder Cup and Europe could use a shot of adrenaline to their golfing spirits.

Garcia and Harrington are Europe's best bets to end that long standing U.S. Open drought. 

Harrington obviously would love the opportunity to win one more leg of the Grand Slam and prove those two majors sans Tiger were no fluke. However, "Paddy" has already missed five cuts this season on tour and appears to be far off from finding his game.

Garcia would just love to dish out a little of the frustration the Irishman has been handing him these past two years in the majors. He clearly has the ball-striking ability to do it and if the flat stick cooperates you can expect him to compete this weekend.

Garcia will come to New York as an afterthought, how he leaves is up to him. 

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