The 2017 Masters Tournament will largely be remembered for Sergio Garcia’s triumph. After so many years chasing a major win, the Spanish pro golfer took home a stunning victory.
It isn’t often in sports that the son of a coach becomes a feel good story. Sons of coaches are usually mocked and accused of only getting to where they have via nepotism. But leave it to Sergio Garcia and his flair for the dramatic—something that has often been more negative than positive for him—to go from being the son of a coach, to a sympathetic figure, to a player who has finally reached the top of the mountain.
Sergio Garcia started playing golf at an early age, the product of being the son of a club pro. That head start led to early accolades, with Garcia winning his club’s championship at the age of 12. He was the youngest player to make a European Tour cut, earning a number of amateur titles along the way. Garcia’s stock was rising, but his journey would not be without adversity.
That adversity would come in the form of several failures to capture an elusive major championship. Many of those results came in painful fashion, with Garcia being in contention all tournament long, only to have one moment take the wind completely out of his sails.
Elusive major championships
Garcia was the leader after each of the first three rounds of The Open Championship in 2007. Then, it looked like Carnoustie would play host to Sergio’s first major title. Entering the start of the final round, he had a three shot lead over second-place Steve Stricker, and extended that lead to four shots early into his round. Despite his lead slipping away due to some bogies in the middle of his round, Garcia still had a clear path to victory. All he had to do was par the 18th and the Claret Jug was his. Instead, he missed an eight-foot par putt and ended up in a playoff with Padraig Harrington, which he lost by a stroke.
There was the 2008 PGA Championship, when Garcia was again bested by Padraig Harrington in the tournament’s final round. His memorable water shot on the 16th hole ended up costing him the championship when all was said and done. For a long time, it seemed like Sergio Garcia was destined to always be the bridesmaid, but never the bride.
It was an interesting situation for Garcia, in that all of the success he had early in his life—and all of the success he had as a professional—ceased to mean anything when his legacy was discussed. When you reach a certain level of competition, championships turn into the only thing that matter, no matter how cruel and senseless that kind of evaluation can become. It’s the type of flawed feedback loop that can turn the son of a club pro into a sympathetic figure, and that didn’t look like it was going to change—until the 2017 Masters.
Sergio Garcia’s triumph: a change in luck
Having shot a rock-solid average of 70 through the first three rounds of The Masters, Garcia found himself tied with Justin Rose entering the tournament’s final round. Despite shooting two-under through three holes, Garcia struggled in the middle of his round, allowing Rose to open up a two-shot lead heading down the stretch. Normally, this would have been enough to cause Garcia to fold, but not on that day.
Garcia eagled the 15th hole, tying things up with Rose heading into the final three holes. He even had a very makeable putt to win the tournament on the 18th hole, but missed it to send things to a playoff. Once again, it was expected that Garcia would fold. But he held his nerve and outperformed Rose on a replay of the 18th hole, earning him a green jacket, and removing Garcia’s designation as the best to never win a major.
Sergio Garcia’s triumphs total of 31 professional tournament victories, including 10 wins on the PGA TOUR. He is married to Golf Channel reporter Angela Akins, and is the chairman of his hometown soccer team in the fourth division of the Spanish soccer ladder. But more important than any of that is the fact that—after going from a young phenom to being viewed as a player who could never get the job done when it mattered most—Sergio Garcia is no longer the best player to never win a major championship. Sergio Garcia is no longer a bridesmaid.
See also: How Rory McIlroy Became a Golf Legend