Sergio Garcia won his first major in April
The Spaniard marries his wife Angela in the summer
The couple are expecting their first child next year
Editor’s Note: Shane O’Donoghue presents December’s edition of Living Golf (all times GMT):
Thursday, December 7, at 10:30 & 17:30
Saturday, December 9, at 07:30 & 22:30
Sunday, December 10, at 17:30
Sunday, December 17, at 07:30
Sergio Garcia used to be regarded as golf’s nearly man.
There were the 73 failed attempts to win a major – four runner-up spots, 12 top-five finishes, 22 top 10s – culminating in 18 seasons of what-might-have-beens.
In one of his most vulnerable moments he told the world that he didn’t have what it took to win any of golf’s big four tournaments.
“I’m not good enough,” he famously said five years ago. “I don’t have the thing I need to have. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.”
He was set to become the most talented player never to win one of golf’s biggest prizes.
But then the Spaniard found love, and his off-course contentment played out on a glorious Sunday at Augusta in April, where nearly two decades of golfing heartache came to an end.
’The best year ever’
Garcia, a whirlwind known as “El Nino” in his younger days, withstood a last-day surge from Justin Rose to secure the Masters in a knee-knocking playoff for his first major title.
Even after he had bogeyed the 10th and 11th in the final round, and after he caught a tree on the 13th. Even when onlookers were expecting another Garcia implosion, the 37-year-old displayed a new found, Zen-like calm.
It was one of the sporting highlights of the year. Such was the magnitude of the win that former world No.1 Rory McIlroy cried when his friend eventually captured golf’s most glamorous prize.
Another victory followed in a year the world No.11 describes as “definitely the best year ever.”
He ends 2017 with three tournament wins – the Dubai Desert Classic, the Masters and Valderrama Masters – plus three top-10 finishes and earnings of more than $3 million on the PGA Tour alone.
By his side throughout 2017’s successes has been Garcia’s wife-of-four-months Angela, the woman he credits for his reformed demeanor.
When asked about his wife’s contribution to his success, the soon-to-be father tells Living Golf: “It’s difficult to just say one thing.
“But she’s brought a lot of love, calmness, confidence and she’s going to bring a beautiful baby girl so it’s just amazing.”
The competitive couple
It has been quite the year both on and off the course for the newlyweds.
“I think it’s more than we expected at the beginning of the year,” Angela, a former college golfer and sports reporter, explains.
“Obviously with the Masters win that kind of started it all off and then we got married in the summer time and then shortly after found out we were going to have a baby. It’s just been incredible.
“Sergio likes to say when he’s happy off the golf course, it’s easier for him to be happy on the course and that makes a lot of sense.
“Obviously if you have turmoil in your life, anything that you’re doing as a profession is going to be more difficult.”
She adds: “Our relationship is great because we laugh a lot, we have a great time, we’re really similar yet we’re really different and it seems to work.
“I’m really competitive and I think that Sergio sees that a lot.
“I might be as competitive as him, in some ways more so, and I think that we just bring out the best in each other and he’s told me that, that I bring out the best him and he certainly brings out the best of me and, I mean, what more can we ask for from the person who you spend the rest of your life with?”
In a sport which involves year-round travel around the globe, it helps to have an understanding partner, says Garcia.
With a father who was an All-American college quarterback, a grandfather who was an acclaimed high school football coach and a cousin, Drew Brees, who is the New Orleans Saints’ quarterback, Angela appreciates the sacrifices and travails a sports star has to make.
“It is very important because she knows the kind of lives that we live and it’s not easy,” says Garcia.
“For us (golfers) it’s much easier because we’re used to it but, for our partners, it’s not easy to be traveling all over the place and not really feel like you have a real home and things like that.
“I don’t think we give them enough credit for everything that they do. So, yeah, she’s amazing.”
Garcia, whose father is his coach, acknowledges that everyone in his team “my dad, my wife, my mum, my brother, my managers, my caddie, my friends, my in-laws” have played a part in his brilliant year, but he also credits fellow pro Henrik Stenson for contributing to his Masters victory.
In 2016, the Swede, then aged 40, won the Open Championship to claim his first major title with a record-equaling major round of 63.
But it was not the deed itself which inspired Garcia, but the words of wisdom Stenson shared following his victory.
The Spaniard recalls the exchange, saying: “When I saw [Henrik] afterward in Switzerland, he came after winning the Open which was unbelievable, and I congratulated him and I told him how happy we were for him.
“And one of the first things he says to me was, ‘I’m 40, you’re 36, you still have 16 majors before you’re 40’ so you have plenty of chances…
“I don’t know if I needed it [him to say that] or not but it definitely helped.
“Obviously, I’m not going to say that I won the Masters because of that but, at the same time, when it comes from someone that you respect, that is a friend of yours, has been there and been close many times, hasn’t been able to do it and finally does it – when someone like that tells you that, it does hit you right on this muscle right here [referring to his heart] so that definitely meant a lot.”
With a new season on the horizon and the life-changing impact of fatherhood soon to take hold, Garcia is not content to reflect on a successful 12 months. He wants to further improve his game further.
“I got a bigger major coming early next year with the baby coming so we’re extremely excited about that, I think that’s going to be amazing,” he says.
“So, it’s a lot of great things coming along and, hopefully, I just want to be as healthy as possible and try to keep improving and keep giving myself chances.
“That’s the goal, to keep going. It’s not easy to achieve, but there are areas I can get better.
“I think mentally I can still get even better and if I get a little bit better mentally, when it comes down to the golf game, that will help me to be in that calm mood that I’ve experienced this year a little bit better.”