Golf

Sergio Garcia provides the ‘it’ in winners

Sergio Garcia, of Spain, reacts after making his birdie putt on the 18th green to win the Masters after a playoff Sunday, April 9, 2017, in Augusta, Ga.
Sergio Garcia, of Spain, reacts after making his birdie putt on the 18th green to win the Masters after a playoff Sunday, April 9, 2017, in Augusta, Ga. AP

The 2017 Masters gates have closed on another electrifying major tournament, but the conversation has not. Sergio Garcia’s knees-bent, fists-clinched victory allowed fans who might have been disturbed with his past comments to reconnect with the Spanish wonder.

Unfortunately, golfers are often measured by victories and the significance of those triumphs. Jack Nicklaus won 18 major championships. Greatest ever! The two golf course gladiators who decided to play an extra hole last Sunday now have a total of two major trophies, one each. People who are close to Garcia and Justin Rose won’t measure them by their Green Jacket or US Open Trophy.

When asked about what he was “most proud of” after his birdie on the 73rd hole, Garcia quickly answered, “Definitely my character.”

His honesty has always been tangible, almost to a fault, if that’s possible. “I’m not good enough” might have been the only comment the Borriol, Castellon resident fabricated. Born from exasperation, the comment energized golf writers’ ink for a handful of years.

El Nino, as he’s affectionately known, has spent over half his career in the Top 10 of the World Golf Rankings. Not good enough? I would vehemently disagree with the Spaniard. The “it” that he suggested he didn’t have in 2012 certainly is part of the game, but the “it” that surrounds sports is stronger than any self-professed incompetence that golfers carry in their golf bags.

When Rose’s ball bounced off the bunker’s slope and curled its way to a makeable few feet from the 72nd hole, couch comments must have begun with “Here we go again.”

When Sergio’s putt on the final hole didn’t break as expected, “He can’t win a major” had to be the most common remark in 19th holes around the world.

Elena Dementieva reached nine semifinals in 10 years without ever winning a Grand Slam title. Pam Shriver reached the 1978 US Open final as a 16 year-old amateur by beating Martina Navratilova in the semis. Never a major. Todd Martin, once No 4 in the tennis world, unfortunately played tennis when Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras were dominating the court with 22 Grand Slam titles. Martin zero.

Sergio got off the snide, and fans who pull for the underdog are happy “it” did not rear its ugly head. As Rose said, “…if it wasn’t me, I’m glad it’s him.”

If you love golf, you have to agree.

Tommy Snell, golf coach at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, writes a regular column for the Sun Herald.

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