Finally a Major for Garcia
There are so many storylines to Sergio Garcia and his win at last week’s Masters that it’s difficult to know where to begin. To start with, I suppose, I’ll admit that I’ve just never liked him, and suspect that a fair number of people don’t either.. On the other hand, I had to begrudgingly root for him, if for no other reason that he’s sought a major win for so long, and was finally on the brink of getting one. I’ll wager that a lot of people felt that as well. I have often wondered why I didn’t like him, and at other times knew perfectly well why I didn’t. In the end, I have to face the fact that I come from a rather stayed British background, and he’s a Spaniard with a big-time personality. I enjoy that, but not when it crosses the line into poor sportsmanship and crudity. At any rate, by the time he hit the last three holes, my support was not so begrudging.
Padraig Harrington probably came from a similarly stayed background, and is probably right that Garcia has been a sore loser. However, the Irishman made the mistake of saying so right now, and we didn’t want to hear it right now. Considering Garcia’s efforts to finally win this thing, and the fact that he did it so courageously, I feel obliged to step back and let the victor enjoy every drop of his victory, without any quallification. Garcia deserved everything he got this week. Infamous for his personal explosiveness, he held his nerves and concentration together when he needed it most. Around the turn to the back nine, I wouldn’t have bet a dime on that proposition. I was confident that he was self-destructing before our eyes. The way it ended up, we have to be impressed by what Garcia accomplished, and the way in which his eventual opponent, Justin Rose, handled disappointment. Criticisms have caromed around the golf world for decades about the unrealized potential of Garcia. They say he was too immature, too overtly emotional, didn’t practice enough. Everything came too easy for him, they said, so he didn’t take advantage of it. It didn’t look easy on Sunday, and it appeared as though he practiced plenty enough. If it were me, I would reward myself by being overtly emotional, and I am sure that he did just that.
I enjoyed the story line that followed the ancestry of great Spanish golfers and the Masters. Seve Ballesteros would have been 60 years old on the day Garcia won his Masters. Ballesteros was the closest thing the golf world will ever have to Zorro. We were thrilled by him, elemental as he could be. Jose Maria Olazabel was likeable in quite another way. We danced the minuet with him instead of Seve’s tango, but respected him without hesitation. Sergio Garcia is the natural heir to the legacy of these men. In fact, Garcia is the legacy, albeit a mixed one. He doesn’t have the dash of Ballesteros or the nobility of Olazabel, but we know that he can play golf under pressure on a big stage. Only a few years ago, Tiger Woods was the big major winner, and Garcia had to accept a secondary role, along with everyone else. On Sunday, he threw that mantle off, while Tiger was a no-show, and likely to remain so.
To see the course at Augusta each year is a festival of visual gratification, despite the fact that the azaleas weren’t quite as well-timed for this one. With the changing lead, the presence of Fred Couples to Charley Hoffman and a persistent Justin Rose, the 2017 Masters was a sensational four-day tease. And then, to have it end with Sergio Garcia wearing the green jacket was the perfect reminder that anything can happen. Garcia needs to be reframed in our inner golf conversations. He has realized his dream and proven that we should take him seriously. And liking him has nothing to do with it.