Originally created 06/20/02

Garcia, Mickelson move on to Greater Hartford Open

CROMWELL, Conn. -- Sergio Garcia sized up the Greater Hartford Open in a hurry early Wednesday morning.

"You get here and the fairways look real wide," Garcia said with Bethpage Black and Tiger Woods fresh in his mind.

Paired with Woods on Sunday in the U.S. Open, the 22-year-old Spanish star shot a 4-over 74 to finish six strokes behind.

"I'm still a little tired. It took a lot out of me," said Garcia, playing his ninth tournament in 11 weeks. "But last week is over. It doesn't mean anything this week."

After taking a break from golf Tuesday for a tennis date with girlfriend Martina Hingis, Garcia was on TPC at River Highlands at 6:45 a.m. for his pro-am round.

He struggled to a 2-over 72, but joked with his playing partners and wasted little time with the incessant waggles and regrips that drew the wrath of some U.S. Open fans.

"I need to work on it, but unfortunately I haven't had any time," Garcia said. "I need to take some time off and find something that feels comfortable.

"More than anything, my right hand doesn't feel quite right. That's why I have to grip it."

Defending champion Phil Mickelson, second in the U.S. Open, is far more comfortable on the 6,820-yard River Highlands course than the 7,214-yard Bethpage layout.

"This is a great risk-reward course, especially the back nine. In the U.S. Open you don't have that," said Mickelson, playing his final tournament before the British Open.

Last year, he ended a string of disappointing finishes, shooting a career-best 61 in the third round and closing with a 68 for a one-stroke victory over Billy Andrade.

"This course allows you to use the driver and play some shots around the greens," the 20-time PGA Tour winner said. "At the Open, you just chop it out of the rough."

He shot a 65 in the pro-am, offsetting an opening double bogey with seven birdies.

Ernie Els also is in the field along with 1995 winner Greg Norman, David Duval, John Daly, Vijay Singh and Davis Love III.

"I was supposed to play here quite a few times, but I didn't quite make it," Els said. "I've watched this tournament on TV a couple of times, but to play it is another story.

"The greens are quite undulating. You have to hit into the right areas. You can hit your driver quite a bit, which I like."

The two-time U.S. Open champion tied for 24th last week at Bethpage, 14 strokes behind Woods.

"I didn't play very well," Els said. "I never had a chance to win. This week I want to play. I want to get my name on the leaderboard as quickly as I can.

"I really worked hard at my game last week, so I feel it could turn around pretty easily this week."

Divots: Jeff Julian, fighting Lou Gehrig's disease, is making his seventh tournament of the year. ... Scott Verplank shot a 63 in the pro-am. The Ryder Cup player had a 61 in the final round last year for a share of the course record with Mickelson and Kirk Triplett. ... Notah Begay III, recovering from a back injury, won the 2000 tournament with a River Highlands-record 20-under 260 total. He has missed the cut in all 11 tournaments he has entered this year. ... Canon is in its final year as the tournament's title sponsor. ... The winner will receive $720,000 for the $4 million purse.


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