For Sergio Garcia Masters win changes everything — and nothing
April 11, 2017 12:00 AM
Matt Slocum/Associated Press
Sergio Garcia birdied the 18th hole in a playoff to win the Masters.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
AUGUSTA. Ga. — It was only five years ago when Sergio Garcia stood outside the clubhouse at the Augusta National Golf Club after shooting a third-round 75 and told Spanish-speaking reporters he didn’t have the game to win a major championship.
“I’m not good enough … I don’t have the thing I need to have,” Garcia said at the time. “In 13 years I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.”
When asked if he meant in the Masters, Garcia said, “In any major.”
It was certainly a different scene in the fading twilight early Sunday evening when Garcia slipped on the green jacket from Englishman Danny Willett after winning the 81st Masters in a playoff with his friend, Justin Rose. The player who often sparred with American galleries and was known to brood on the golf course was now smiling and joking and basking in the adulation accorded him by the patrons who chanted his name, “Sergio, Sergio.”
There was no more talk of not being good enough to win a major. Or being known as the best player to have never won a major.
“Well, I don’t have to answer that anymore,” Garcia said more than an hour after he won the playoff with a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th green. “Now I’ll have to answer, I don’t know, if I’ll be the best player to have only won one major. But I can live with that.”
Garcia was smiling when he said that, which is what happens when the frustration of having never won a major in 73 attempts is over and gone.
“Obviously, I like where I stand now better,” Garcia said.
Garcia has always been considered one of the best ball-strikers in the world, a player who won 30 tournaments around the globe — nine on the PGA Tour — including the 2008 Players championship. He was also an intense Ryder Cup competitor who could irritate some of the American players with his fiery style.
But multiple majors were predicted for him when he burst on the American scene as an ebullient 19-year-old wunderkind at the 1999 PGA Championship, trying to chase down Tiger Woods. It never happened.
Garcia, who likes to watch horror movies, was asked if it felt like he was actually living one.
“Not at all, not in the least bit,” he said. “I have a beautiful life. Major or no major, I said it many, many times — I have an amazing life. I have so many people that care for me and love me and support me. I feel so nicely surrounded. Obviously, this is something I wanted to do for a long time but, you know, it never felt like a horror movie. It felt like a little bit of a drama, maybe, but obviously with a happy ending.”
Garcia talked about the support he had all week from family and friends, the heartfelt text he received from his countryman and two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, who said, “I’m not sharing my locker at the moment, and I hope that I get to do it with you.” His fiancee, Angela Akins, left him “cute and beautiful” notes in the bathroom mirror each morning.
Sunday night was a far cry from what transpired five years earlier at Augusta National.
“To be totally honest, I mean, I’m very happy, but I don’t feel any different,” Garcia said. “I’m obviously thrilled about what happened here, but I’m still the same guy. I’m still the same goofy guy, so that’s not going to change.
“I think the problem is, because where my head was sometimes, I did think about, ‘Am I ever going to win one?’ I’ve had so many good chances and either I lost them or someone has done something extraordinary to beat me. So it did cross my mind.
But lately, you know, I’ve been getting some good help and I’ve been thinking a little bit different, a little bit more positive. And kind of accepting, too, that, if it for whatever reason didn’t happen, my life is still going to go on. It’s not going to be a disaster. But it’s happened.”
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