When Sergio Garcia lost the PGA Championship to Tiger Woods in 1999, most people figured he would win half a dozen majors or more after that. He was a really good golfer, after all.
But no — he failed and failed. And failed again.
He established himself, in fact, as a “spoiled, immature brat,” as ESPN writer Ian O’Connor opined.
Did Garcia admit his failings and vow to play better after each loss? No. He blamed everyone and everything else, swore at officials, even spat into the cup. But five years ago, he started to grow up when the love of his life, Angela Akins, came into the picture. They became engaged in January of this year.
Garcia entered this year’s Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia, with a crushing record of 0 wins in 73 majors. So close, and yet, time and time again — so far from that winners circle.
But golf fans are loyal and they love an underdog story, so they were quick to forgive Garcia’s controversial past behavior and comments. Everyone wanted him to be a winner, most of all his fiancee, a former Golf Channel reporter.
It all came down to the 18th hole of the last round of the last day of the Augusta National. Tied with 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, Garcia watched as Rose slammed his ball into the trees. Opportunity was knocking and Garcia rose to the occasion, hitting his ball right onto the fairway. The fans went crazy, cheering and chanting his name.
A formidable challenger, Rose hit the green in three strokes — but by reaching the fairway Garcia was able to make it to the green in two. Followed by a masterful 12-foot putt that drained the ball, Garcia won the Masters in spectacular fashion.
To truly comprehend the win, you need to know Sergio Garcia’s full story. Raised the son of a caddy, he learned golf at an early age with a broom instead of a club. He rose to be a teenage prodigy in Spain and competed — and almost won — a PGA championship at the age of only 19. The winner of that tournament was a young man named Tiger Woods.
Garcia just kept losing after that. Until this weekend when he finally won — and won big.
Gary D’Amato of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described the victory best. He wrote that by winning the 81st Masters Tournament, Garcia “stood destiny on its head.”
Not a bad weekend for Garcia. It was a long time coming — and well deserved.
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