By Benjamin Block
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It’s real. The winner of the 81st edition of The Masters — where golf is a cousin to religion — is Sergio Garcia. However, his long-awaited signature win isn’t likely to spawn victory at any of the remaining three majors this year.
That notwithstanding, supporters and even detractors of Garcia seemed happy for the newly-minted Masters champ — someone whose game was once likened to that of Tiger Woods.
But his post-win reaction of “It has been such a long time coming,” lacked a heartwarming or storybook feel. In fact, the sentiment felt kind of hollow.
People haven’t forgotten that following his third round implosion at the 2012 Masters — after having played inspired golf through the first 36 holes — Garcia barked to Spanish reporters, “I’m not good enough to win a major.”
Or perhaps it’s because the emotionally fiery and transparent Spaniard has built up a long history of rubbing people the wrong way.
Padraig Harrington is one of those individuals. And Harrington still harbors some uneven feelings toward Garcia. The Irishman, who beat Garcia in a playoff at the 2007 British Open for his first of his three major championships, told “Game On” on RTE 2fm in Ireland, “I gave him every out I possibly could at the 2007 Open. I was as polite as I could, and as generous as I could be,” Harrington said. “But he was a very sore loser, and he continued to be a very sore loser.”
Yet, Harrington indicated that his stance softened when he watched Garcia finally earn his first major.
“Anybody watching that has got to feel for him and see, maybe I’m a bit harsh in the fact that I look at it and say, ‘Well, everything comes easy to Sergio.’ But clearly, it hasn’t come easy to him. It really hasn’t. And you could see in that moment in time that, you know, he probably paid his dues,” Harrington said.
If a win at a major could ever be justified as “out of character,” Garcia’s would qualify. The more times that he fell short of his wildly high potential over the years, the more his victories were celebrated as mere pleasant reminders of his talent. Garcia’s Masters victory gave the European fixture an underwhelming 10 career PGA tour titles.
Shooting 5-under-par this past weekend at Augusta National, where between 1999 and 2016 he had been 47-over-par over the final two rounds, certainly was unexpected.
Couch caddies everywhere surely counted on the typical weekend fade from the soon-to-be-married 37-year-old. And with good reason, as Garcia had been 0-for-73 in major championships.
Timing has historically been against Garcia. Multiple major victories — namely the 1999 PGA Championship where he finished second to Woods — have eluded him.
He, like many other golfers, came up during the inopportune time of Woods’ dominance. And now, today’s onslaught of youth is more than likely to stifle any of Garcia’s best efforts to win more majors.
Plus, it’s hard to predict which version of Garcia we will see now that the pressure to win a major is no longer in question. Higher expectations can do strange things to a player’s mindset.
Will Garcia be complacent? Or will the tailored fit of a green jacket free him up and propel him to win another major?
Reality is that his putter is still a big liability, which was evident in that it took him what was essentially a second playoff hole to beat Rose, when he had a very makable putt to win on 18.
If it took him 19 years to figure out how to string together four days of complete golf at a major under tight scrutiny, chances are we’ve witnessed his first and last major victory.
Should he have won multiple majors? Absolutely.
At least he won’t have to tour the world as the best player never to have won a major. That backhanded compliment now probably goes to Rickie Fowler.
Follow Benjamin on Twitter at @benjaminblock21