Sergio Garcia finally tastes Major glory
Might major championships be like London buses for Sergio Garcia?
Just as Londoners wait and wait for buses, then two come along at once, is it possible that Garcia, having waited 74 starts for that first win, can add a Claret Jug to his brand new green jacket when The Open tees off in exactly 100 days time?
On Sunday the 37-year-old finally claimed his maiden major victory after a magical final round tussle with Justin Rose which ended on the first extra hole of a play-off, an emotional success on what would have been the 60th birthday of his hero Severiano Ballesteros.
History certainly suggests that the venue for the The 146th Open might allow Garcia to ride the wave a little longer.
Back in 1998 Mark O’Meara arrived at Royal Birkdale as the new Masters champion and defeated fellow American Brian Watts in a play-off to lift the Claret Jug.
He isn’t the first winner at the Lancashire course whose Champion Golfer of the Year potential had been flagged at Augusta National.
1983 winner Tom Watson had finished tied fourth at the Masters, eight years later Ian Baker-Finch dropped a hint when tied seventh, and in 2008 Padraig Harrington was tied fifth. Going further back, in 1961 Arnold Palmer was tied second among the azaleas ahead of winning his first Claret Jug.
If these performances provide Garcia with hope of adding to his collection of ten top ten finishes at The Open, and maybe going one better than the two occasions he has been runner-up, it also gives great heart to the man he vanquished at Augusta, Justin Rose.
Rose, major winner at the US Open in 2013, is looking to become the first Englishman in 25 years to lift the Claret Jug. Royal Birkdale, the scene of his electric introduction to the golfing world, would be the perfect stage.
It was back in 1998 that the then 19-year-old amateur Rose dramatically holed out on the 72nd hole for a birdie which earned him a tie for fourth, the first step on a long and emotional journey to the top of the sport.
It seems remarkable that 14 appearances at The Open as a professional have seen him fail to improve on that result, but a tie for sixth in 2015 offers hope, as does the fact that he’s clearly in wonderful form this year.
Another Englishman who thrived on the last day in Georgia was the Arizona-based Paul Casey whose 4-under-par 68 vaulted him into sixth place, one better than the tied seventh he earned at Royal Birkdale nine years ago.
If the Garcia-Rose final day duel was vaguely reminiscent of last year’s Henrik Stenson-Phil Mickelson head-to-head at Royal Troon, the Augusta fortunes for those two Open Champions was less encouraging this year.
Stenson carded rounds of 77 and 75 to miss the cut by two shots, but the sanguine Swede is unlikely to be too disheartened given his disappointing long-term record at the Masters.
Instead he’ll focus on the fact that he’ll defend the Claret Jug on a course he finished tied third at in 2008. He’s also confirmed that he will prepare exactly as he did for that success, with a week of links golf at the Scottish Open.
Mickelson’s opening round of 71 left him primed to make a run for a fourth green jacket, but his challenge fizzled out. Rounds of 73-74-72 saw him end the week T22nd.
With 100 days until the start of The 146th Open Garcia can dream of further glory and should he complete the Claret Jug-green jacket double he will be the first golfer to do so since Tiger Woods in 2005.