Sergio was golf’s tragic figure; now he’s the champion he was meant to be

In the shadow of Medinah Country Club’s majestic clubhouse, at a PGA Championship long ago, Ben Crenshaw waited for his audience with the boy king. Crenshaw was a month away from serving as captain of the 1999 U.S. Ryder Cup team, so he was closely eyeing the final round of the PGA, watching to see how both teams might gel. Just moments earlier, Sergio Garcia had run out of holes in a thrilling duel with Tiger Woods, failing to claim the Wanamaker trophy but securing a spot in his very first Ryder Cup. “Boy, that kid is gonna be a handful,” Crenshaw said. Finally, the young Spaniard materialized, and Crenshaw offered him a manly hug and some down-home consolation: “You didn’t get this one, but you’re gonna win so many of these you’re gonna get tired of lifting trophies.”

Of course, who didn’t get swept up in the turn-of-the-century Sergiomania? The kid had it all, including a boyishness that transcended borders. But what Crenshaw couldn’t know was that the “99 PGA Championship would propel Woods to the most dominant run of golf ever played. Poor Sergio had his spirit crushed along the way, and by the time the 2002 U.S. Open rolled around, his public image had already curdled, culminating in him flipping the bird to a Bethpage gallery that was mercilessly heckling him. (Sometimes the jeers turned into mockery, as when Sergio showed up for the final round of the 2006 Open Championship, and another showdown with Woods, in an all-yellow outfit. Overserved fans took to calling him both “Big Bird” and “Banana Man.”) Over the next decade and a half, Garcia did indeed manage to lift many trophies, but of course no majors. He had good health, immense wealth and a string of glamorous girlfriends, and yet he somehow became a tragic figure—what the British tabloids liked to call a “nearly man.”

It was when we finally gave up on Garcia that he became the player he was meant to be, winning the 2017 Masters in one of the grittiest, most satisfying performances ever. Decades from now they’ll be singing songs in Spanish taverns about Garcia’s par out of the hazard on the 13th on Sunday, and his flag-hunting approach shots on 15 and 18, to say nothing of the decisive birdie in sudden death. That putt caught a piece of the hole and tumbled in. Back in the old days, when Garcia saw himself as a dogged victim of inexorable fate, his ball would have done a power lip-out and trickled off the green.

Much was made at Augusta of how Garcia has been changed by his fiancée Angela Akins, the former Golf Channel talent. Her father Marty is an underrated part of the story. Just as Dustin Johnson is benefiting from the hard-won wisdom of his future father-in-law, Wayne Gretzky, Garcia has fallen under the thrall of Marty, an All-American quarterback at the University of Texas who was such a schoolboy legend that LBJ personally recruited him on behalf of the Longhorns. On Saturday evening at this year’s Masters, I found Marty on a couch in the Augusta National locker room. He had tired of battling the crowds and was plopped in front of a large TV. “I want to see his eyes,” he said of Garcia. And what did his future son-in-law’s visage reveal? “I see confidence,” he told me. “He’s not afraid of anyone or anything.”

Where does Garcia go from here? Ben Hogan won eight majors after he turned 37. Phil Mickelson nabbed multiple majors at an advanced age. Maybe Garcia will go on a run to secure his place in the pantheon. Or maybe this Masters will be the exclamation point on a very good career. Either way, the man has already been made whole.

courtesy of (golf.com) Alan Shipnuck

Sergio wears “green jacket” at soccer match

The green jacket tour continues.

Sergio Garcia traded in the golf course for the pitch on Sunday as he took the ceremonial kick-off at the La Liga Clasico match between Real Madrid and Barcelona. And of course, he was wearing his Masters green jacket.

Garcia, a Real Madrid fan, was promised this opportunity by the club’s president, Florentino Perez, if he ever won a major. Mission accomplished.

courtesy of golf.com

Spieth and Sergio, polar opposites at Augusta National, converge for green jacket

Sergio Garcia and Jordan Spieth have played this Masters (and their careers) completely different.

One man came here at age 21, played the tournament of his life, and won. The other went to Medinah at age 19, played the tournament of his life, and finished second. This should not matter when Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia try to win the 2017 Masters, but of course it does.

Spieth will not play the final round in his green jacket, but he carries it in his mind wherever he goes. And Garcia cannot show up here Sunday and win the 1999 PGA or the 2002 Masters or the British Opens he could have won but didn’t. But he must make peace with those memories before he creates a better one.

This Masters leaderboard is like a menu where everything looks good: The Spieth was fantastic last time, the Rickie Fowler is always enjoyable, and another Adam Scott or Justin Rose might be OK if you’re into that sort of thing. But Spieth and Garcia are the most interesting golfers on the board.

For proof, consider Charley Hoffman’s second shot on 11 Saturday. Apparently, nobody else did. Hoffman hit a terrific shot from the left rough to 22 feet, and the crowd at Amen Corner barely noticed. I’ve heard louder cheers at divorce proceedings. Hoffman was leading the Masters at the time. Then Garcia hit his shot to 21 feet, and the crowd gave him his due.

Garcia is six under, tied for the lead with Rose, after holing a seven-foot par putt on No. 18. All week, he has looked and acted like a man who is not Sergio Garcia. Serene. Comfortable. At the 12th, where the flag was flapping but the tee felt windless, Garcia hit one of the best shots anybody hit there all day, to within 10 feet. And on 15, Garcia calmly waited for Hoffman to hit three shots before sinking his birdie putt.

Putting is supposed to keep Garcia down – well, putting and ghosts – but in 54 holes, Garcia has had just one three-putt. Spieth, the renowned putter, has had four.

After he finished the third round, Garcia talked about his good luck this week. Sure, he’s had some: On 13 Saturday, he hit a 4-iron that should have rolled back into the water but stopped on a bank, and on 10 Friday, he hit his tee shot into the trees, but it bounced back into the fairway.

But bad luck is a matter of perception. Garcia’s has changed. He is not dwelling on the perfectly struck balls that fly long because the wind died, and he has flicked off any potential annoyances like pieces of lint. He ignored the fans talking as he hit his tee shot on 17 Saturday. He seems at peace.

Garcia has not played any hole remotely like Spieth played No. 15 Thursday, when Spieth stood in the fairway, 100 yards from the pin, after two shots, and managed a nine. And that’s what makes Spieth’s current standing so impressive: he is four under, two shots off the lead.

Spieth can be volatile but he is such a compelling golfer because he is steely when he needs to be. He saved par from the sand on the par-three 4th, and he kept making nerveless pars until the putts started dropping.

Spieth came into the week answering a million questions about how he would handle the par-3 12th after his quadruple-bogey meltdown on Sunday last year. Actually, “a million questions” is not accurate – it was the same question a million times. He said he would be fine, but what he should have said was that he is 23 years old and already owns a green jacket, so who’s haunting whom here?

Fred Couples is a hero here, and in the World Golf Hall of Fame, for winning one Masters, his only major. Spieth has won a Masters, a U.S. Open and has, oh, two decades to add to that collection. He is too young and successful to lie awake at night, wondering what might have been, and he knows it.

Garcia? He is 37. One of his heroes, fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros, was long done winning majors by that age – and Seve won five. Another hero, Jose Maria Olazabal, won his two green jackets at age 28 and 33. Garcia has time, but not that much time.

He is at the age where he can throw his toys on the ground and cry, or realize they are pretty nice toys and relax. He has chosen to relax. Maybe it’s the influence of his girlfriend, Angela Akins – Garcia once admitted he went into a slump after getting dumped. Maybe it’s just age. But consider these two quotes:

Garcia, 2009, on Augusta National: “I don’t like it, to tell you the truth. I don’t think it is fair. Even when it’s dry you still get mud balls in the middle of the fairway. It’s too much of a guessing game.”

Garcia, 2017, on Augusta National: “It’s the kind of place that, if you’re trying to fight against it, it’s going to beat you down. So you’ve just got to roll with it and realize that sometimes you’re going to get good breaks, like has happened to me a few times this week, and sometimes you’re going to get not-so-good breaks.”

Jordan Spieth, 23, has been blessed with the wisdom of 37-year-old Sergio Garcia. He has everything in his bag except demons. And maybe this would all be different for Garcia if Tiger Woods had made a few bogeys on the back nine at Medinah in 1999, but then Tiger wouldn’t be Tiger, Sergio wouldn’t be Sergio, and we wouldn’t be here, hearing him say, “right now, I’m pretty calm.” The next 18 holes may define Sergio Garcia’s golf life. He seems fine with it.

Courtesy of Michael Rosenberg (golf.com)

Sergio Garcia completes wire-to-wire win in Dubai

Sergio Garcia with the winner’s trophy after round four of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Sergio Garcia shot a final-round 3-under-par 69 to win the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday after holding the tournament lead since the opening round.

The Spaniard, who had never posted a top-10 finish in his previous seven Desert Classic appearances, finished on a 19-under 269, three strokes ahead of Open champion and top-ranked European Henrik Stenson (69).

Denmark’s Lasse Jensen, whose 65 was the low round of the day, finished tied for third with England’s Tyrrell Hatton (67).

It was Garcia’s first European Tour win since the 2014 Qatar Masters. In the interim, he also won the Byron Nelson Classic on the PGA Tour last year.

With his 12th European Tour victory, Garcia became the sixth wire-to-wire winner of the Desert Classic and the sixth Spaniard to lift the “Dallah” trophy.

Garcia is expected to move up to No. 9 from his current 15th place when the rankings are released Monday.

The 37-year-old started the day with a birdie and increased his lead to four shots, a cushion that seemed necessary given how tough the front nine of the golf course was playing due to cross winds. He held his nerve throughout before making a critical par save on the eighth hole after hitting his tee shot into the right desert, and then made another birdie on the tough par-4 ninth to ensure he stayed four ahead of Stenson.

The Swede made his move on the back nine, with three birdies and a bogey on the first five holes, while Garcia kept churning out pars. Heading to the 15th tee, Garcia’s lead was down to two shots.

But the Spaniard held firm on the par-3 15th hole. He hit a stunning tee shot to two feet for a birdie, while Stenson hit his over the green and failed to make an up-and-down for a bogey and a two-shot swing.

Stenson then got a closing birdie while Garcia missed his from 12 feet, narrowing the gap to three shots.

“I’ve been fortunate to have some really good ball-striking tournaments,” said Garcia, who led the greens in regulation stats for the week and was second in driving accuracy. “This definitely was one of them. I felt like my iron play was really, really good. Obviously my driver was very good, a couple of shots here and there. But you know, on a course of 72 holes, it’s going to happen.

“Nobody can go without missing a shot but this week was definitely a week where I felt very comfortable with my game. I felt like I was in good control of what I wanted to do with my ball flight and stuff. So I guess it showed up.”

Stenson, who won the tournament in 2007, said: “Obviously, I was chasing all day and I was trying to push, even though I didn’t play my best.

“With that birdie on 14, I was hoping I was going to be able to make it a bit interesting coming into the last couple of holes. If you’re one or two behind, with 17 and 18, a lot of things can happen . you can eagle and someone else can end up in trouble.

“We picked the wrong wind and I hit the wrong shot at the same time. Airmailed the green on 15 and led to bogey. And Sergio hit a good shot to three feet and then it was pretty much game, set, match.”

After completing its desert swing, the European Tour next moves to Kuala Lumpur for the Maybank Championship.

Sergio Garcia wants everyone to know how bad Chambers Bay’s greens are

blog-sergio-garcia-greens-thThroughout his career, we’ve seen Sergio Garcia complain about everything from getting bad breaks to Augusta National. Yes, he’s actually whined about playing Augusta National.

So it should come as little surprise that Garcia has already found something wrong with Chambers Bay: its putting surfaces. Following an opening 70 at the U.S. Open, the Spaniard took to Twitter and didn’t hold back:

______________________________________________________________________

Sergio Garcia

@TheSergioGarcia

Happy with my Even par round today although it could’ve been a bit better by the way I played but this greens are as bad as the look on TV. I think a championship of the caliber of @usopengolf deserves better quality green surfaces that we have this week but maybe I’m wrong! If my problem is saying what everyone thinks but they don’t have the guts to say it, then I’m guilty of that for sure.

_______________________________________________________________________

As you can imagine, the reactions on Twitter were not favorable. “Win a major, then whine about it,” one person wrote. “Cry harder you baby,” said someone else. And our personal favorite, “Send the wambulance.”

Garcia will play in the afternoon Friday when the greens should be even bumpier. To be exact, his tee time is 2:17 p.m. local in case somebody is coordinating that wambulance.

courtesy of Alex Myers (golfdigest.com)