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Garcia defends his constant regripping

Sergio Garcia stood over the ball, adjusted his grip and lifted his driver ever so slightly as he tried to get comfortable over his tee shot.

This usually takes a while.

The shot seemed simple enough, especially since the seventh fairway on the Plantation Course at Kapalua is 96 yards at its widest point. Garcia looked down the fairway and waggled the driver. He squeezed the grip like he was milking a cow.

Waggle. Squeeze. Squeeze. Squeeze. Waggle.

He did that 24 times -- about par for the day in the final round of the Mercedes Championships -- before finally unleashing a piercing drive that split the middle of the fairway.

Mark Calcavecchia, who managed to stay awake through all this, went next.

He took three waggles and swung away. Their tee shots were right next to each other.

``It's just the way I feel comfortable,'' Garcia said Sunday after winning the Mercedes in a sudden-death playoff over David Toms. ``If I was playing bad, I probably would say, 'Yeah, maybe it's not helping me.' I don't think it's helping me and I don't think it's hurting me.''

Whatever the case, it has become his signature.

Arnold Palmer hitches his pants. Jack Nicklaus crouches over putts. Tiger Woods pumps his fist. Phil Mickelson looks apologetic after making birdie.

Sergio waggles.

The best way to learn how to count to 14 in French was to listen to the gallery following Garcia during the Canadian Open in Montreal.

``Une, deux, trois ...'' they whispered with each waggle.

The same scenario unfolded in the clubhouse at Champions Golf Club in Houston during the Tour Championship, as people ticked off the waggles while watching on television.

It has become a running joke, only Garcia doesn't think it's funny.

Nor is he offering any apologies.

``As you can see, I still do it, so I ignore it,'' he said. ``I'm not going to hit a shot until I'm ready. If it takes me 100 regrips, I'm going to take 100 regrips. I don't care. I've hit it without being ready, and I've done it wrongly. It's the way I play.

``I don't say to you guys, 'You shouldn't grip the pen that way when you write. You shouldn't blink as many times when you're on your computer.' Everybody has their own way of doing things. I'm not going to tell you do something you don't like, so try not to do the same thing to me.''

No one can argue with the results.

The Spaniard is close to becoming a legitimate threat to Woods, having won three times on the PGA Tour in his last 11 starts. He also beat U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen at the Lancome Trophy in France, and shot 63 in the final round of the Million Dollar Challenge in South Africa before defeating Ernie Els in a playoff.

Garcia says he has always regripped and waggled the club, but never this much. He doesn't recall when he started going overtime, although most people trace it to the U.S. Open at Southern Hills, where he contended in the final round.

The reason for the regrips and waggles is to bide time to get his head clear over a shot, instead of waiting for a particular sensation in his hands.

``Sometimes you get bad thoughts,'' he said. ``Without wanting to, you look at the trouble and say, 'Gee, I don't want to go there.' Don't think about it, just picture the shot you want, get ready, try to hit the best you can. As soon as I've got everything right in my mind, that's when I hit.''

Maybe it works.

``I'm playing well and I'm winning,'' Garcia said. ``Maybe amateurs are starting to try it because it looks to me like it's working.''

Don't get the idea that Toms will give it a shot.

He was asked Sunday, after Garcia beat him with a birdie on the first extra hole, what he did to kill time during the waggles.

``Just don't watch,'' Toms said. ``I tried to count one time to see how many it was so I knew when he was going to hit it the next time. There's no rhyme or reason to it. Obviously, if he could help it, he wouldn't do it. It can't be any good for you.''

Toms said there was a kid at his club in Louisiana who used to waggle the club even more than Garcia.

``Everybody has their little things they do,'' Toms said.

Garcia is starting to get a little testy whenever the waggle is mentioned. Last year at the Canadian Open, he said Nicklaus took as much time over shots.

``No one said anything about it,'' Garcia said. ``If he used to take a lot of time, it's not such a bad thing. So, think about that.''

For those who can't stand watching the waggle, Garcia said they should take Toms' advice and simply turn away.

``Just look when you hear the click,'' he said.

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