Sergio Garcia Should Win The Masters This Year
By Nathan Yates
It’s a bold claim. And the odds makers aren’t giving the best of odds. But it would be a great redemption story for Sergio who has had some crushing near misses in the majors and suffered though other hardships both on and off the course.
When Sergio Garcia hit the scene he was a fresh faced kid, literally. He was only 19 years old when he dueled against Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship. His eyes-closed 6-iron from behind the tree is still worthy of the highlight reel nearly 20 years later. Sergio may well be the main (golf) victim of Tiger Woods. Sergio found himself coming runner-up or collapsing under the weight of Tiger’s intimidation factor on a good number of occasions. It almost seemed that he truly believed he couldn’t or maybe even shouldn’t win a major.
He slowly collapsed at the 2007 British Open. He carried a 3 stroke lead into the final round which evaporated after a string of bogeys. He had a chance to win the tournament on the 18th hole but narrowly missed his birdie effort and found himself in a playoff with Padraig Harrington. Garcia lost the playoff. And his comments after the round did no one (especially him) any favors.
Sergio pulled off maybe the most impressive win of his career in 2008 when he won the Players Championship, which as we all know, is often referred to as the “5th Major”. But even after this win Sergio made a strange comment. He said “I’d like to thank Tiger Woods for not being here”. It was funny, but these things are always more than just a joke.
2009 and 2010 brought us a struggling Sergio. He was so mentally exhausted that he actually took some time off from the game. It was actually very interesting to see the passionate Spaniard go through essentially a year-long train wreck. We all know golf can be a cruel mistress. Your humble author here knows it first-hand. None of us knows why golf can be so easy one day and so hard the next but it was obvious Sergio wasn’t in a good place back in 2009. It’s easy to understand why though. He was playing with a broken heart. He had been dating Greg Norman’s daughter Morgan and when she ended the relationship he simply couldn’t focus on the game. This is when he also started suffering from his tick of standing over the ball, waggling, and regripping the club for what often felt like an eternity. He even drew heckles from the crowd for this uncontrollable behavior. It was certainly the low-point in his career.
When Sergio reemerged from his self-imposed exile in 2011 you could see he had made some changes. First of all, he switched to an unorthodox claw putting grip that has served him well although he still tinkers with a standard grip from time to time. But more importantly, he simply looked better. He was enjoying the game again and he’s been enjoying a fair amount of success over the past few years. Incidentally, he now finds himself in a loving relationship. Sergio is a passionate guy and seems to play better when his heart is happy. He’s also recently proven that his game is in solid shape with a recent win.
Again, Sergio has had some pretty abrasive confrontations with the press and the public over his career but he really has mellowed out in recent years. He no longer lives in Tiger’s shadow and actually has been flying under the radar (except for during the Ryder Cup). With the new 20 somethings taking full advantage of their age and technology, guys like Sergio have receded into the background for the most part. But this can actually be an advantage. Let the other guys deal with that nonsense. Dustin Johnson and Jordan Speith are the co-favorites according to Vegas. All the press and pressure will flow their way and Sergio can simply focus on his game. Garcia always put a lot of pressure on himself to win a major in the past. The monkey is certainly on his back but with reduced expectations, fewer questions on behalf of the media, and a more mature attitude Sergio seems relaxed enough to capture that major victory that has eluded him his entire career.
Of course, there are reasons to be skeptical. Sergio did just recently lose at the World Golf Championships match play in the semifinals to fellow Spaniard and golf ball killer Jon Rahm. It probably didn’t help his confidence but match play losses tend to be easier to deal with. However, he won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February. So his game is obviously in good form. Good enough to win the Masters? Sure, why not? You don’t win any event on the European Tour with a sloppy game.
Some people mention that Augusta National is set up for bombers. And to them I say, you’re entirely right. Most courses these days favor bombers. But one need not be a crushing it like JB Holmes to win at Augusta. Jordan Speith has won a green jacket and last year’s winner Danny Willet isn’t exactly a monster of the tee. Sergio is still plenty long but he isn’t Dustin Johnson or Jason Day. He’s no doubt comfortable with the fact that he can’t blow it by a lot of the guys on tour anymore. He played smart and crafty in Dubai to win. He’ll have to do the same at Augusta. There will be no overpowering Augusta for Garcia. He’ll have to think his way to a green jacket.
Remember now, I said Sergio should win the Masters. Not that he will. The truth is that I want him to win. It would be one of those feel good major victories. Like when Davis Love III won the PGA Championship in 1997. Twenty years is plenty of time to have passed to see another victory like that.
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