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Garcia still hurting from losing out in past to Padraig and Rory

By Liam Kelly

Masters winner Sergio Garcia yesterday revealed that he has never quite erased the memories of the hurt inflicted by his Open Championship defeats to Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy in 2007 and 2014.

Garcia, 37, was honest enough to express his regret at a couple of key moments at Carnoustie in '07 when he lost in the play-off to Harrington, and three years ago at Hoylake where he shot 66 in the final round but ended up losing by two shots to McIlroy.

The victory at Augusta last April generated a wave of heartfelt congratulations from golf fans and fellow players who believed that the Spanish Ryder Cup star had paid his dues and suffered enough in Majors.

But listening to Garcia take a brief trip down memory lane at Royal Birkdale yesterday reminded those present of the fickle nature of sport.

The Open was the one he grew up wanting to win most, mainly because it was played in Europe, was live on terrestrial television and, unlike the American Majors, finished in a time zone that did not clash with bedtime.

He played in 10 Opens prior to 2007 when the destination of the Claret Jug came down to a duel between the Spaniard and Irishman Harrington at Carnoustie.

Garcia might have won in 72 holes when his par putt on the last hole defied gravity and stayed out, giving Harrington the chance to force a play-off which he won.

Seven years later he had a chance to finally get his hands on the big prize at Hoylake, but faltered on the last few holes and McIlroy joined the ranks of Open winners.

So, if Garcia could take a mulligan on the back nine on Sunday at Carnoustie and Hoylake, what would they be? He chose to reflect on the most recent hurt first.

"I've gone through them in my head, and I think in '14 when Rory won, I probably would like to hit the tee shot again on the par-three," he said.

"I did finish birdie, par, birdie after that, but obviously I'd like to keep that finish there too."

From his perspective, the 15th at Hoylake, a par-three that was rated as one of the easiest on the course, should have coughed up a birdie chance or at least a par, but Garcia hit his tee shot into a bunker, and took two to get out of the sand trap.

And Carnoustie? He said: "I could take a mulligan on the putt (at the 72nd). Maybe I could take a mulligan on the tee shot, try to hit more club and leave myself a shorter club in. And if we hit it in the bunker, we hit in the bunker.

"But I did what I thought was best, and unfortunately they didn't work out."

Ultimately, it took 73 Majors for the big moment to arrive when Garcia eclipsed Olympic champion Justin Rose in a thriller at the Masters.

At fifth in the world, and second in the Race To Dubai rankings, Garcia has every reason to feel optimistic about his chances at Birkdale.

"Winning the Masters was amazing, and it does give you a little bit of extra confidence, and I've been having a very solid year, so all of those things are great," he said. "When we get there on Thursday morning on the first tee the nerves will be there, and that's not going to change because that's what drives us."

Will he finally lay the Irish hoodoo this week? At the very least, Garcia seems to have buried the hatchet with Harrington when they had a chat at McIlroy's recent wedding.

"If I tried to be like Harrington it's probably not going to work for me because our personalities are totally different," he said.

"But the patience that he has helps. He's a hard worker. I saw last week he was coming back from injury and he had a good week, so he must be excited about it. And it's a course where he won in 2008. So we'll see."

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