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Sergio Garcia
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Garcia shows he's ready for the 2000 Open
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Garcia shows he's ready for the 2000 Open

Sergio Garcia's only flop this year came at the Open. Don't look for a repeat.

In leading Spain to its first Dunhill Cup title this weekend, the 19-year-old prodigy shot three straight rounds of 5-under 67 at the Old Course -- golf's most revered shrine -- and was 18 under for five rounds.

And where is the 2000 Open? You guessed it.

Three months ago at the Open in Carnoustie, Garcia had the highest score in the entire field for two rounds -- including an embarrassing 89 -- and left crying on his mother's shoulder.

Since then, he's rebounded to finish second by a stroke to Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship, won his second European PGA Tour event since turning pro six months ago, sparkled in the Ryder Cup and has exploded into superstar status.

At home, he's become Spain's most popular athlete eclipsing soccer striker Raul Gonzalez of Real Madrid and Barcelona's Josep Guardiola.

``I'm looking forward to the Open with some confidence, but you know it's different ... the pressure,'' Garcia said Sunday after losing Spain's only match in the deciding 2-1 victory over Australia. He lost on the first playoff hole to Craig Parry after they matched 69s.

``The Open is a totally different tournament,'' Garcia added. ``I don't know how the weather is going to be, probably be windy as always. It's too soon to say that I'm going to play well at the Open next year. I hope I win the Open ... but don't expect me to.''

Garcia shot his 67s in near perfect weather. But even in two losses on Sunday, including 70-72 in the semifinals to South African Ernie Els, he shot 3 under for 36 holes with winds gusting between 20-25 mph off the Firth of Tay.

``I played good enough and I was lucky enough in this tournament not to hit one of the fairway bunkers,'' he said. ``If you don't do that, that's a good start.''

Garcia's loss in the final came with a three-putt bogey from 40 feet on the first playoff hole after tying Parry on the 18th with an 18-foot birdie putt.