Garcia, Stenson on the comeback trail

Sergio Garcia opened strong at the U.S. Open at Congressional.

Sergio Garcia opened strong at the U.S. Open at Congressional.

Europe is rightly basking in Rory McIlroy’s runaway U.S. Open victory, but maybe the recent play of two elder European Tour pros deserves as many column inches.

A guarded welcome back to Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.

Where have you been?

It seems strange to have already anointed McIlroy as a major champion when Garcia still hasn’t joined that elite club.

Who would have thought way back in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah, when Garcia was racing up the fairway, that we’d still be waiting for him to win his first major?

Not me.

I was fortunate enough to walk 18 holes with Garcia when he won his first European Tour event, the 1999 Murphy’s Irish Open. What stands out for me was the way he putted in that final round. Garcia’s 64 could easily have been a 62 he putted so well.

The Spaniard isn’t anywhere near his best, when he was second in the world to Tiger Woods. However, 7th in the U.S. Open and runner-up in the BMW International Open prove he is on the right track.

Garcia’s decision to switch to the claw putting grip seems to be paying off. At least he is back contending for tournaments.

At age 31, time still remains on Garcia’s side. It seems strange to think he won't one day win one of golf's marquee events as well as he strikes the ball.

Stenson is four years older than Garcia with plenty of time to make history. He can become the first Swedish male to win a major.

Stenson is the latest in a long line of Swedes threatening to win a major. It seems odd, too, that we’re still looking for a Swede to win one of the four tournaments that really matter.

Think of the Swedes that have graced the European Tour – Ove Sellberg, Anders Forsbrand, Jarmo Sandelin, Niclas Fasth, to name a few – and it’s hard to imagine the wait goes on.

Stenson might be the one to break that drought. He’s been struggling recently, but his play at the U.S. Open where he finished T-23 and a top-10 finish at the BMW International Open in Germany is evidence that the work he is doing with coach Pete Cowan is paying off.

There’s a touch of irony that while Garcia has struggled with the putter, Stenson has found it hard to master the longest cub in the bag. The Swede just can’t seem to master his driver. He seems to have found something in the past two weeks, much as Garcia has found a little sparkle on the greens.

So McIlroy might be Europe’s future, but Garcia and Stenson can still play a big role in its present.

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