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What a difference a week makes for Sergio Garcia

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Simple math suggests that Sergio Garcia is well along in his professional career, with no number telling the story better than his streak of consecutive major championships played, which will reach 67 at the Masters next month -- the longest of any player.

And yet it is still jarring to see Garcia's date of birth, Jan. 9, 1980, which puts him at 36 and makes him older than all but five players ahead of him in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Garcia is No. 19; his worst in recent years was 78th at the end of 2010. He has seen the likes of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler all emerge in his presence, twentysomethings who have piled up victories of late while Garcia has settled into a less prominent place among the game's elite.

It just does not seem that long ago when Garcia was the bright young star with the potential to win multiple major championships, an obvious foil for Tiger Woods, especially given their memorable duel in the Spaniard's second major start as a pro way back in 1999 at the PGA Championship.

Garcia has amassed more than 25 worldwide victories and is a veteran of seven European Ryder Cup teams. And he has had his share of heartbreak along the way, as well, a point he acknowledged without prompting at the Honda Classic, where he trails Fowler by 2 shots.

"It's nice when you're young and you know the scar tissue is not too thick,'' Garcia said. "You play and you love it and you don't really care too much about everything that's going on around you.

"As you get older, I think you see more things and you start worrying and trying to help in other ways than just playing golf.''

That, of course, can be interpreted two ways.

The young players of today have yet to suffer any crushing defeats -- although Day might argue that point.

And Garcia has, to the point where you wonder if he'll ever be able to overcome it.

The Spaniard hasn't won on the PGA Tour in more than three years, and during that time, he has just a single victory on the European Tour, at the Qatar Masters in 2014.

Of course, that's not the Masters, where he has suffered his share of frustration at Augusta National, a course that in 2012 prompted him to tell media from Spain that he didn't think he had what it took to win a major championship.

"I'm not good enough ... I don't have the thing I need to have," Garcia said then. "In 13 years, I've come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.''

That was said in the heat of the moment, after a 75 knocked him out of contention in the third round, but it certainly raised concerns. Garcia nearly caught Woods at age 19 during that 1999 PGA Championship, but that is one of just four runner-up finishes in majors.

His most famous -- infamous? -- second-place finish came in 2007 at Carnoustie, where Garcia lost The Open in a playoff to Padraig Harrington, wondering afterward if some otherworldly force was conspiring against him. A year later, he dueled Harrington again at the PGA Championship, finishing second -- again.

Garcia did win the 2008 Players Championship and later that year captured the WGC-HSBC Champions, although it did not count as a PGA Tour victory at the time.

The 2015 season was not a bad one, but Garcia was mostly quiet. He didn't miss a cut in the 15 events he played on the PGA Tour, with two runner-up finishes, including a playoff loss to Fowler at the Players Championship.

Following the PGA Championship, Garcia elected to skip two FedEx Cup playoff events. He also passed on the season-ending Dubai event on the European Tour for which he was eligible, but he won a low-level Asian Tour event in Vietnam late in the year.

The Honda is just his third start in 2016, following a tie for seventh at the Qatar Masters and a missed cut last week at the Northern Trust Open.

"After a terrible week last week where I felt like I pretty much didn't do anything well, didn't play well, didn't chip well, didn't putt well, didn't do anything ... so I guess it's nice to be able to play well,'' said Garcia, who followed his opening 65 with a 69 on Friday.

"I didn't come in with a lot of confidence. You are wondering a little bit, because usually my long game, it's up there, and even when I'm not playing great, I can manage to get it around. But last week, I felt out of sorts. I didn't feel comfortable with the swing. Nothing was really making me feel that comfortable.''

Garcia turned it around quickly. The South Florida winds can take their toll on a not-in-sync golf swing, but Garcia has made just two bogeys over 36 holes and given himself a nice opportunity this weekend at PGA National -- although he was hardly boasting.

Maybe it's the scar tissue.

"We'll see,'' he said.