(Reuters) - Sergio Garcia displayed shades of Seve Ballesteros on his way to victory at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Texas on Sunday, matching his late countryman for most career wins by a Spaniard on the PGA Tour.
Garcia overcame some poor swings to collect his ninth tour victory, beating American Brooks Koepka in a playoff at the TPC Four Seasons in Irving.
“I won a bit a la Seve today. I definitely wasn’t really on,” Garcia said in a greenside interview after finding two water hazards in the final round but still coming through to win.
“It means so much (to match Ballesteros). I played really well the last five holes, including the playoff, but other than that I was battling with my swing a little bit, playing hard and chipping great, and made some great putts.”
Garcia carded a closing 68, while Koepka shot 71. They finished at 15-under 265, one stroke ahead of American Matt Kuchar.
Garcia won with a par at the first extra hole after Koepka yanked his drive into a water hazard.
“I had no idea where the ball was going (the final two rounds) and you can’t play out here when you’re hitting it in the rough,” said a disappointed Koepka.
It is Garcia’s first victory on the PGA Tour since 2008, though the 36-year-old has continued to pile up victories outside the U.S.
Garcia’s win is a big boost to his hopes of making the European team for this year’s Ryder Cup, where he hopes to carry on Ballesteros’ legacy.
Garcia has a huge passion for the biennial team event against the United States. He has played in it seven times, on five occasions on the winning side.
”I played nicely this week,“ Garcia continued. ”I know I can play better. Obviously this is going to jump me (up the Ryder Cup rankings), which means a lot to me.
“My swing wasn’t all the way there but I played as hard as I could with what I had.”
Five-times major winner Ballesteros played a huge part in making the Ryder Cup competitive back in the early 1980s, after decades of American dominance.
Renowned as one of the game’s great short game exponents, he died of a brain tumor in 2011 at the age of 54.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; editing by Ken Ferris/Steve Keating