The phrase goes: “the calm before the storm”, but in Sergio Garcia’s case, the storm came before the calm and the calm led him to victory. In 73 major starts, Garcia had 0 wins to his name, until the 2017 Masters where he beat Justin Rose in a playoff. But what led to this triumph?
To understand Sergio’s struggle, we need to go back to the prime of Tiger Woods. It was a difficult time to be a young golfer, going through the same motions as Woods, only to live in his shadow. Most golfers did, but when you’re a promising youth at the top of your golf game, you want results. This created tension between Woods and Garcia and in turn started a rivalry that grew an ugly head that spewed hateful words.
The once confident 19-year-old Ryder Cup rookie nicknamed “El Niño” became known for his complaining, whining, and overall negativity towards himself and towards other golfers. He would fade the moment he came into contention at the majors and left him empty of any such trophy. He developed the grip yips, an obsession with re-gripping on to his club, and would happen 20 times or more on every shot at its height, which is when he became a target for the gallery.
By the 2012 Masters, Garcia was left with doubt, and was quoted saying, “I’m not good enough. … I don’t have the thing that I need to have to win majors.” With the fans berating him and his own lack of self, it seemed as though Sergio would never win a major.
Each runner up finish became more tiresome, and although he was downtrodden, it’s true that he never surrendered to his negativity. No matter how many times he complained about the result of a tournament, you always saw him at the next one. With a few PGA Tour victories under his belt, it wasn’t until 2008 that Garcia won The Players Championship in a playoff against Paul Goydos. This skyrocketed him back on to the map of professionals to contend with, and in turn he became known for being one of the best without a major.
In the fall of 2015, Garcia started dating Angela Akins and everything seemed to fall into place. He gained his first PGA Tour victory in four years at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May of 2016 and talked about his increased calmness in events. It seems as though Akins families background in sports, and her own history as a golfer at the University of Texas, shed light on what it was he was missing. The Spaniard learned how to channel his negativity into a more positive and healthy outlook, which led to his first major title.
In January, Garcia held off Henrik Stenson at the Dubai Desert Classic to win his first victory in two years on the European Tour. Ahead of the Masters, Akins and their Pomeranian named Bear, gave Sergio all of the support he needed. She would leave post-it notes of encouragement on his mirror and Akins told his friends to send positive messages as well. After his 69 on Friday at Augusta, Garcia said, “I’m working on trying to accept things. It’s much easier to say than to do it, but it’s part of golf. But it’s still fun. I love what I do. I feel like I’m so blessed to be able to play golf for a living. So I’m going to enjoy it as much as possible.” A sentiment much different than the deflated El Niño in 2012.
With a great effort to start, a steady pace into the weekend, and a charge at the end, Sergio Garcia became the new owner of the Green Jacket and the reputation that goes along with it. The fact that it was Seve Balesteros’ 60th birthday on Sunday, made his victory that much sweeter.
The support of loved ones, the calmness in pressure situations, and a more positive outlook on life were all the components Garcia was missing, and now has, as a major winner.
“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. And 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.”