Sergio Garcia at 35: Chasing rhythm and confidence

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – The teenage sensation nicknamed El Nino is no kid anymore.

Sergio Garcia turned 35 in January, a reminder that his scissor-kicking days at the PGA Championship at Medinah Country Club were more than 15 years ago. Yet for all his talent, somehow Garcia is still searching for his major victory. How does the Spaniard feel now that he’s on the backside of 30?

“Pretty much the same as 34. Didn’t change that much,” he said.

Garcia, who is set to tee it up at the Northern Trust Open for the first of three consecutive starts on Tour, said he is a fan of Riviera and enjoys playing here (sixth in 2007, T-4 in 2012, T-13 in 2013).

“Every time I can get the Northern Trust Open in my schedule, I try to fit it in there,” he said.

Garcia is seeking his first PGA Tour title since the 2012 Wyndham Championship. He almost ended his drought at the CIMB Classic in November, where he finished tied for second. His game of late? Garcia, ranked No. 7 in the Official World Golf Rankings, admitted he hasn’t been sharp in his previous two European Tour starts, missing the cut in Dubai and finishing in a share of 46th in Qatar.

“I guess a little bit of everything,” Garcia said when asked what part of his game has been holding him back. “Short game, it’s been a little bit shakier than it has been in the past three or four years. I guess it’s just a matter of kind of building up a little bit of confidence and kind of getting into the rhythm and start doing things.”

Garcia found his groove last summer with three consecutive second-place finishes, including the Open Championship. Garcia’s best years still could be in front of him. He is admired equally for his power and precision and widely regarded as one of the game’s best ball strikers. The pressure on Garcia to win his first major grows with each year, but Garcia didn’t sound like a man stressing it.

“We could sit here and talk about things could have gone better and obviously things that could have gone worse,” Garcia said. “But at the end of the day, I think if I give it everything I have, you know, I can’t really ask myself for anything else. If I give it my best, that’s really all you can ask yourself for.”

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