Originally created 05/16/02

Garcia plays as defending champion for first time on PGA Tour



FORT WORTH, Texas -- Sergio Garcia is doing more than playing as a defending champion for the first time on the PGA Tour. He's trying to match Ben Hogan.

Hogan is the only player to win consecutive titles at the Colonial, where Garcia overcame a five-shot deficit with a closing 63 last year for his first victory.

"The win was one that was hard to get, it took a lot of time. To be able to do it in such a special tournament was a bonus," Garcia said. "It's always something I've been looking forward to. Finally, I'm here to defend my first title in the states. I want to try to do what Hogan did."

Garcia, just 21 when he won at Colonial, has since won twice more on the PGA Tour and last month won the Spanish Open for his first victory in his homeland. But that first win gave him a new confidence, and a big boost in his development.

"You're more comfortable with yourself, and you become a better player by being in that position over and over again," he said. "That experience is always important and, of course, I'm much more patient than I used to be."

The last nine Colonial champions are in the field for the $4.3 million tournament that begins Thursday on the historic 7,080-yard, par-70 layout. Former champions Ben Crenshaw (1977, 1990) and Tom Watson (1998) are skipping this week's Senior PGA Tour Instinet Classic in New Jersey to be in Fort Worth.

Before teeing off for his first practice round this week at Colonial, Garcia took an extra minute to admire his name on the Wall of Champions. There it was among the likes of Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus.

"It's great to be standing there on the first tee and look right and see your name on the wall where the champions are," Garcia said. "That was something special."

The only name on that wall more than twice is Hogan, who won five Colonial titles and twice won back-to-back (1946-47, 1952-53 and 1959). A life-size statue of the Hall of Fame golfer is outside the clubhouse at the course known as Hogan's Alley.

Phil Mickelson won the 2000 Colonial with his own closing 63 to overcome a seven-shot deficit on the back nine. He had a three-stroke lead going into the final round a year ago but finished two strokes behind Garcia.

Mickelson's only win this season was at the Bob Hope Classic in his first tournament of the year. He had three straight third-place finishes before finishing ninth in New Orleans and 17th at the Byron Nelson Classic in Irving last week.

"I have not putted well the last two weeks. It's not that there's any problem with the greens. I've just flat-out missed them," Mickelson said. "The greens here are very true, they roll perfect. It will be my job to read them and get my putter on track and back in contention."

Garcia's only win this year was in the season-opening Mercedes Championships. He has four other top 10 finishes, but last week missed the cut for the first time in 10 PGA events this season after a second-round 74 at the Nelson.

The break wasn't all that bad.

"I played some tennis and practiced a little bit," he said. "It was nice to relax a little bit and have a good time."

Divots: Shigeki Maruyama, who won last week at the Nelson, is also in the Colonial, where he tied for fifth last year. The only player to win the Colonial and the Dallas stop on the PGA Tour in the same year was Hogan, in 1946. ... Watson is making his 24th Colonial appearance, but first since 1999, a year after his win. ... J.J. Henry was an All-American golfer at TCU, a campus only about a mile from Colonial Country Club. After winning $1.1 million as a tour rookie last year, he is playing the Colonial for the first time. "It's really special. I still remember the first time I played here and hit a tee shot off the first hole," said Henry, who also lives in Fort Worth.