Oakmont, Pa. – Sergia Garcia leaped into the imaginations of golf fans at the 1999 PGA at Medinah when he hit a shot wedged against a tree, then sprinted up the fairway and did a scissors-kick leap to see where it landed.
That moment hinted at Garcia’s precocious talent and competitive spirit, but it has faded from memory, banished by Garcia’s many major failures.
Friday at the U.S. Open at Oakmont, Garcia provided a clumsy reminder of that leap and a brilliant closing hole that positioned him to again contend for a major title.
Playing Oakmont’s ninth as his 18th hole of the second round — and 36th hole of the day, after rain washed away his Thursday tee time — Garcia drove the ball into a ditch to the left of the fairway.
He was forced to stand with his left foot far lower than his right amid high grass. He somehow wedged the ball onto the fairway, then had to dance and stumble to keep his balance.
The move wasn’t quite as elegant or memorable as his leap at Medinah, but it could prove more important. Garcia hit his approach 50 feet left of the flag, then sank a 50-foot par putt to finish at 2 under for the tournament, two shots off the lead.
Garcia played alongside Dustin Johnson, easily the best ball striker on the day. Johnson is tied with Andrew Landry for the lead.
“He’s going to be tough to beat,” Garcia said of Johnson. “But I’ll give it a shot.”
Although it seems he has been competing for a half-century, Garcia is merely 36. Oakmont made him feel twice that.
“This is definitely the toughest golf course I’ve ever played,” he said. “I’m too old for this.”
In the morning, Garcia shot a 68, the best start of his 17 U.S. Opens. His worst? His 79 at Oakmont in 2007.