Sergio Garcia scrambles to a decent score, but remains searching for his swing

February 26, 2015

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Golf is all about the score, isn't it?

Score is a golfer's currency. Score is ego. Score makes the man.

These assertions are incontrovertible. Ty Webb aside, you can't measure a golfer by anything other than the numbers on his card.

On Thursday at the Honda Classic, however, Sergio Garcia couldn't have cared less about the two-over-par 72 he posted in the first round at the choppy Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa.

Never mind that he played his final seven holes in three under par in increasingly blustery conditions to salvage a round headed towards oblivion. Never mind that he showed a bit of grit in his next official round after a weak, wasteful finish cost him the Northern Trust Open four days earlier at Riviera Country Club.

Two over par might be seven behind leader Jim Herman, but it was still inside the cutline. Five over, which was where he stood through 11 holes, was halfway inside an asylum.

But, apparently, if you think style is irrelevant in a game of numeric substance, then you don't, well, know the score.

In fact, playing and scoring are two different things.

"Score is a different question. Playing-wise, I have been fighting this for five weeks," Garcia said, hardly impressed with his late rally to respectability at PGA National. "I don't know what I'm going to do next. I won't quit. But sometimes it's hard not to think I should take a step back. I should be able to figure this out."

Five weeks of misery, which included two poor starts in Europe to begin 2015, and, yet, heading towards the 71st hole at Riviera, Garcia was still clinging to a one-stroke lead. He bogeyed it with a three-putt, and then carved up Riviera's iconic 18th hole like he was wielding an ice pick. His second straight bogey dropped him out of tie with Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey and eventual winner James Hahn.

Whatever flaws that infected his game were largely quarantined until the final two holes, costing him his first PGA Tour victory since the 2012 Wyndham Championship. It's difficult to look at the glass as even half full with that kind of closing disappointment, but Garcia sees the glass cracked and leaking.

Despite saving par from the water at the 18th and then hitting quality shots coming home, including two big hits to birdie the par-5 third hole after slipping to five over, Garcia, who turned 35 in last month, was almost inconsolable about the state of his game.

The talented Spaniard, whose bursts of short-game brilliance is reminiscent of his late countryman, Seve Ballesteros, seldom has concealed his emotions amid interludes of adversity. He was clearly miffed after the muffs at PGA National. Cutting himself any slack for his nifty comeback Thursday was out of the question.

"Yes, I'm scoring lights out at the moment. I might have shot six or eight over today otherwise," he said, clearly irked while changing his shoes in front of his locker. "I did a lot of good things last week, but deep down, I knew that I was just holding it together. As a golfer, you know how you are really playing.

"I'm not used to playing like this for this long. It's not a very nice feeling. This is about my swing. It's just terrible."

Nevertheless, his score at Riviera beat all but three players in his first U.S. start of the year. Shouldn't that be a source of confidence?

"No. Not really. I am doing too many bad things," he countered. "I feel like I would rather shoot eight over and play well than to keep hitting the ball like this and save some kind of a score."

Phil Mickelson, who opened with a 71 at the Honda after getting off to a slow start this year following a largely forgettable 2014 campaign, struggled to understand that sentiment.

"I wonder if something got lost in translation there," Lefty said when Garcia's comments were relayed. "I would just rather shoot a number, I don't care really how."

But Garcia does. And for a good reason, it seems.

"If I can't figure it out, I'm worried about what comes next," he said.

Which is?

"What happens when I stop scoring like this? You know, eventually, this catches up to you if you don't fix it."

And how.