Now a major champ, Garcia still craves Open breakthrough
Sergio Garcia now carries himself with the self-assurance that only a major title can bring. But rather than let his Masters victory serve as the cap on an accomplished career, he hopes it can fuel him to another victory this week at The Open.
Three months later, Garcia is still fielding questions about his playoff win at Augusta National and how it has changed his outlook, both as a player and as a person. The smile that now seems permanently etched on the Spaniard’s face is clear indication that he is relishing the spoils of a highly-anticipated victory.
But the fire that has burned for nearly two decades remains quite bright, as Garcia looks to hoist the Claret Jug for the first time in his 21st appearance.
"Everybody knows how much I love The Open," said Garcia, who was a runner-up in both 2007 and 2014. "So I am excited to be back here, third time at Royal Birkdale, and hoping that the game feels good and that I can kind of pick up where I left off in Germany and have a great week and a good shot at another major."
Garcia's Open career is highlighted by his performance a decade ago at Carnoustie, when his putt to win on the 72nd hole burned the edge of the hole and he ultimately lost in a playoff to Padraig Harrington. While he has contended in spots at each of the other three majors, he has been the most consistent at The Open, with 10 top-10 finishes and seven such results since 2005.
In the last three years, Garcia has not finished worse than a tie for sixth.
"Obviously I love the tournament itself, and I get so pumped up with the crowds and the kind of golf we have to play here, it obviously helps out," Garcia said. "I’ve always said that consistency is one of my greatest attributes throughout my career. Of course I could have won more, but I think the consistency I’ve had for the last 18, 19 years is not that easy to do. And I think some people overlook that."
Garcia has barely broken his stride since donning the green jacket, with finishes of T-30 or better in each of his five subsequent starts. That includes a runner-up finish at the BMW International Open in his most recent tournament, and his No. 5 ranking is the highest with which he has entered The Open since he was fifth in the world at Turnberry in 2009.
While he is still savoring his Masters triumph, he noted that while growing up in Spain it was The Open that always seemed like the major championship most within reach.
"As a European, this is the one you relate to probably the better, or the closest," Garcia said. "I remember in Spain as a kid, we couldn’t see the Masters on TV. They would not show it. The Open, you could see it here and there, and also it was during the day. And when you're 10 years old, your parents don’t allow you to stay up until 11 or 12 at night watching TV."
That 10-year-old boy is now a 37-year-old man who will get married later this month. He has made the cut in both of his two prior appearances at Royal Birkdale, tying for 29th as an amateur in 1998 and finishing T-51 in 2008.
His career would still be highly decorated without his name ever appearing on the Claret Jug, but the meaning of potentially adding his name to the list of those who have served as Champion Golfer of the Year is not lost on Garcia.
"Everybody knows how much I love The Open Championship, and I would love to at least have one of them before I kind of hang up the boots,” Garcia said. “So it’s definitely something that I would like to achieve, and we’re going to give it a shot this week."