Oh Sergio Garcia, is there a sportsman alive who we bleed for more? To see the Spaniard claim the green jacket at The Masters was to witness one of the greatest sporting stories ever told.
El Niño burst onto the scene as a precocious teenager in 1999, beaten by a stroke into a superb second place at the USPGA by Tiger Woods at his best. The heir apparent to Seve Ballesteros, everybody wondered when the young Garcia would fulfil his destiny – and then the clouds came. Foiled again by Woods on the final day of The Open in 2006 (this time finishing T5), we watched through open fingers as he went on to miss an eight-foot par putt on the 18th in 2007’s Open, and subsequently lose a playoff against Padraig Harrington.
Murmurs of doubt crept through his supporters, which only grew louder as another squandered victory came at the USPGA in 2008 after finding water on the 16th. The loyal still believed: surely it was a matter of time? But with beleaguered introspection, Sergio stood before the TV cameras at the 2012 Masters and confirmed the fears: “I’m not good enough. I don’t have the thing I need to have. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.” Sergio, the greatest player never to win a major, had admitted defeat.
Five years later, he would return to Augusta National to prove himself wrong. Leading after three rounds in this year’s Masters, he held his nerve as playing partner Justin Rose applied the pressure and took the lead. We’d seen it before, hadn’t we? Not this time.
Garcia rallied: a miraculous par save at 13 was followed by a birdie at 14, and a stunning eagle at 15 clawed the Spaniard back into contention. A putt to win on the 18th came and went (some things never change), and then on the second playoff hole against Justin Rose, our fingernails bitten to oblivion, Garcia did what few still believed he could. In went the 12-foot putt, up went the arms. Major success was his at long last. After exercising his demons, will victory prove to be like London buses?
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