HOYLAKE, England - The statement was both on target and off the wall. "Obviously," Sergio Garcia said, "if Rory [McIlroy] wasn't 16 under par, it would be really, really tight."
But McIlroy is 16 under after three rounds of the British Open. Garcia, after a 69, is 9 under par and seven strokes back, tied for third and destined for more disappointment.
This is likely to be Garcia's 64th major without a win, two behind Lee Westwood (who missed the cut here) for that unenviable position of best golfer never to finish first in a major.
It seemed almost impossible that Garcia would be without a major victory when as a 19-year-old, he finished one shot behind Tiger Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah.
So many times he's been close, losing a playoff to Padraig Harrington in the 2007 British and finishing fifth here at Royal Liverpool in 2006.
After getting that close, Garcia verbalized his frustration. He told the Spanish media following a second-round 75 in the 2012 Masters, "I'm not good enough to win a major."
He backed off that contention quickly enough, but he still hasn't won one. And at 34, he simply has run into the new Sergio Garcia in Rory McIlroy.
"I've always said at the end of the day, we're all doing our best," Garcia said. "And if somebody is better than you, you can't ask yourself for anything else.
"The only thing I would have loved today is to hit a couple of better shots coming in on 17 and 18. That disappointed me a little bit more than seeing Rory making eagles and birdies."
Through the years, Garcia, who grew up near a course in Spain where his father was a professional, gained a reputation as a brilliant ball striker who was not quite as good with a putter.
"If you're disappointed at somebody making birdies and eagles," Garcia said of McIlroy's finish of eagle 3s on 16 and 18, "then you're not a good sportsman.
"Like what happened to me at Hartford [Travelers Championship]. When Kevin Streelman made seven birdies in a row, what you do is go there and say, 'Well done.' He deserves to win when he does that."
Asked if he might be able to catch McIlroy, Garcia candidly responded, "Not without help. I mean, if he shoots 3 under, I have to shoot 10 under. If Rory plays the way he's been playing, it's difficult to see anyone catching him."
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