FARMINGDALE, N.Y. - Sergio Garcia loves New York. He said so yesterday.

So maybe now the fans who booed him during the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black for his deliberate play, and an obscene gesture he delivered toward some of his hecklers late in the second round, will forgive and forget when he tees it up tomorrow.

"I'm really looking forward to it," Garcia, the world's fourth-ranked player, said yesterday. "I think we know that New York and New Yorkers are very passionate. The only thing I can say is I've been fortunate to do very well here in this area.

"I love New York. I love the people around here. I'm just looking forward to see where I can go this week. It was a good experience [in 2002]. I played well. I actually had a decent chance of winning the championship. So I'm looking forward to doing the same."

Garcia played in the last group with Tiger Woods in the final round in 2002 but finished fourth, 6 shots back.

The 29-year-old Spaniard said he used the break after the Open to work on his pre-shot routine and end the constant regripping of his club, sometimes as many as 30 times, before beginning his backswing.

Garcia won the opening event of 2009 on the European Tour but then fell into a slump for reasons that included a breakup with his girlfriend, Morgan-Leigh Norman, the daughter of golf great Greg Norman. But he said he sees some improvement that he hopes will come into play this week.

"It's not easy," he said. "But at least if you are looking forward to working on it and trying to get better, it always helps."

Expectant father. While his wife, Jackie, waits in West Chester to give birth to the couple's third child, Sean O'Hair is trying his best to prepare for his third U.S. Open but admits life right now is "just stressful" for the couple.

O'Hair, 26, said that if he gets the call this week, he will rush home to be in time for the birth and withdraw from the Open.

"I feel sorry for my wife having to be home alone," he said yesterday after completing a practice round.

"She's just upset that there's a good chance I might not be there for the birth, and that's a tough thing to do on your own. Even though she has her mom and everything, it's pretty difficult."

O'Hair said he misses not having his wife and two children at the Open with him.

"It's just stressful with the fact that you're away, and I've got my third child right there," he said. "It's kind of like I'd like to play the U.S. Open, but it's not the most important thing. I'm trying to figure it out, but the thing is, it's totally out of my control."

O'Hair said the baby, a son, will be named Grady. And if he wins the U.S. Open on Sunday, and Jackie gives birth to Grady a day or two later . . .

"I think I'd keep the trophy in his room," he said.

Rocco's return. Rocco Mediate still is accepting congratulations for fighting the good fight last year and taking Woods to the 19th hole of a playoff before losing the 2008 Open at Torrey Pines.

And with the next Open beginning tomorrow, the 46-year-old veteran doesn't have a problem with that.

"A lot more people recognize me, especially the people that never played," he said. "That's the coolest thing I like of the whole year. A lot of people never played [but said], 'I watched the whole [playoff], and I don't know what golf is.' That's a great thing.

"A lot more people watch. A lot more people notice some things that you're doing. But everybody talks about it every single week. And it's OK. It's a good problem to have if it's a problem. I'd like to make more problems this week."

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.