Avoiding criticism is Garcia's reward

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. --- Sergio Garcia could have mentioned 1.71 million reasons why it meant so much to win The Players Championship, but he is not motivated by money.

Or he could have mentioned 53 reasons, one for every PGA Tour event he had played since his last victory three years ago.

But when asked Sunday evening the best part about his playoff victory in golf's richest event against as strong a field as can be assembled without the world's No. 1 player, Garcia revealed the depth of his frustration.

"Not having to listen to you guys," Garcia said.

Laughter came from everyone in the press center except the guy doing the talking.

Seriously?

"Yeah," Garcia said. "I was dead serious."

The trouble is that, when anyone asks Garcia about a weakness, he takes that as criticism. He said he doesn't read stories about himself. Instead, he judges the media by the questions they ask.

"You heard yesterday, didn't you?" he said.

That was a reference to NBC's Jimmy Roberts asking Garcia three questions after the third round, all related to his putting -- whether it was frustrating to hit the ball so well and not make many putts; if he would go straight to the putting green; and if he could identify the problem with his putting.

Garcia supporters, including some PGA Tour officials, thought the interview was over the line. Then again, Garcia had just taken 34 putts in the third round.

Paul Goydos, who finished second to Garcia on Sunday, lauded his play -- including his putting -- after losing in a playoff.

He offered an explanation for Garcia's putting numbers.

"By virtue of being such a good ball-striker, he's going to have a lot more 20- and 30-footers, and therefore, it's not going to look like he's putting as well as a guy who is hitting eight greens and chipping it to 5 feet and making them," Goydos said.

"When you say he struggles with his putting, you need to put it in the context."

There is no denying that the shortest club in the bag has been Garcia's biggest problem.

The bigger issue for the 28-year-old Spaniard is his emotion. Few play with so much passion.

The emotions that deliver dynamic golf are the same ones that make Garcia sound like a sore loser, whether he blames a rules official (Australia), the weather (U.S. Open) or the golf gods (British Open) when someone else wins.

Through both ends of the spectrum is a young Spaniard who is ultra sensitive. But winning Sunday brought perspective.

"You're going to criticize probably the best player in the history of golf, so how are you not going to criticize somebody else who is much smaller than that?" Garcia said. "I guess it's part of your job. The only thing I can do is try to keep getting better so I make your job harder to be able to criticize me."


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