A late collapse at the Northern Trust Open has people ready to pounce on Sergio Garcia. They shouldn’t.
“Will Sergio Garcia ever win a major?”
“Classic Sergio Garcia in a big spot.”
“How did Sergio blow that lead at the Northern Trust Open?”
Like clockwork, the Sergio bashers are out in full force following his back nine collapse Sunday at the Northern Trust Open. Garcia made a clutch birdie chip on 12 to move to 8-under for the tournament, a stroke ahead of the field. Then the wheels came off. Garcia bogeyed three of his final six holes to finish 5-under and miss a chance to be in a four-way playoff. James Hahn defeated Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey for his first PGA Tour win.
After completing his final round, Garcia said, in essence, that he couldn’t really be disappointed with the result because he’d played poorly all week.
Whether that statement’s true or not, however way you want to look at it, Garcia probably should have won the Northern Trust Open.
But is it really fair for people to start bashing Garcia for his latest loss, or to drudge up the same old “will Sergio ever win a major” drivel? No, it’s not. Here’s a few reasons why:
So he hasn’t won a major yet, so what?
Do the Garcia bashers ever stop and look at what Garcia has accomplished during his 16 year professional career? Garcia turned pro at just 19 years old, and has racked up 27 career wins (8 PGA Tour, 11 European Tour) during that time. His biggest win came undoubtedly in 2008, when he won the Players Championship in a sudden-death playoff over Paul Goydos. Garcia has also been a part of five winning European Ryder Cup teams.
Now to the majors. It’s not like Garcia hasn’t been close. He finished T-fourth at the Masters in 2004, and T-third the following year at the U.S. Open. He’s come the closest at The Open Championship and the PGA Championship, with two runner up finishes in both (2007,2014 Open & 1999,2008 PGA). The most excruciating of those losses came at the ’08 British Open, where an 8 foot par putt would have sealed the win. Garcia missed the put, and lost to Padraig Harrington in a playoff.
It’s certainly fair to point out that Garcia has yet to win at a major. But it’s equally shortsighted to call his career a failure because of it.
He’s playing some of the best golf of his career
Talent has never been the issue with Garcia. Any of his peers on tour or those who cover the sport will tell you that Garcia is one of the most talented golfers of his generation. As evidenced by his current World Golf Ranking of six, or the fact that he’s spent over 350 weeks inside the world top 10, Garcia has been playing golf at a high level for quite some time.
Recently, his short game has never been better. His tee-to-green game has always been solid, and he’s always been a consistently longer hitter off the tee. The question for Garcia throughout his career has always been his putter, but he’s been vastly improved in that area since employing the claw grip. Garcia currently leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained (a measure of putts a golfer takes relative to the PGA Tour average) with a 1.60 average.
Garcia has made the cut in all three PGA Tour events he’s played this season, and has two top-10 finishes. Expect many more as the year unfolds.
He’s 35, not 45
It’s crazy to think Garcia is only 35 years old. After all, he turned pro when he was just 19. Let’s put that in perspective when we make proclamations that Garcia is entering the twilight of his career. He’s not, and likely has at least ten more years of top level professional golf.
However, the clock will eventually run out on Garcia’s chances. Since 1960, the average and median age for major champions is 32. Players 35 and younger have won more than three-quarters of all the majors in that same time. But Garcia has stayed remarkably healthy during his career, and has played in each of the year’s four majors since the year 2000. There will be plenty of chances to break through.
Will Garcia ever win a major? Who knows. He’ll definitely have his chances, and if he does break through, expect it to happen at an Open Championship or at the PGA.
But like Phil Mickelson before him, or Peyton Manning and Alex Rodriguez in other sports before they won, Garcia is going to be viewed by many as the great talent who never came up big when it mattered most, at least until he actually does it. Still, fanning the flames every time Garcia losses a lead, or falters at the end of a tournament isn’t fair to the incredible career already under his belt. It may be the easy and reactive thing to do, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. If and when Garcia does capture that elusive first major, there’s going to be a massive shortage on the amount of crow required to quite so many skeptics. How do you take yours?