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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Sergio Garcia holds his trophy at the green jacket ceremony after winning the Masters on Sunday, his first major title.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 1:00 am

Garcia washes away years of major failure

DOUG FERGUSON | Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Eighteen years and 71 majors later, more tears for Sergio Garcia.

This time, they were accompanied by a smile.

Sunday at the Masters was a most joyous occasion, far different from when Garcia teed it up in his first major as a pro in the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie.

He was 19 and already heralded as a star and the most likely rival for Tiger Woods. Garcia was low amateur at the Masters that year. He shot 62 at the Byron Nelson Classic and tied for third in his pro debut on the PGA Tour. He won the Irish Open, and the next week he was runner-up to Colin Montgomerie at the Scottish Open.

And then he shot 79-83 at Carnoustie and sobbed on his mother's shoulder on his way out.

Garcia never would have imagined then how long it would take for him to win a major, and he had reason to believe it might never happen.

“It's been such a long time coming,” Garcia said after his playoff victory over Justin Rose.

No one had ever played as many majors as Garcia before winning his first one, so those tears were equal parts joy and relief. It showed.

Garcia, who needed only two putts from 12 feet on the first extra hole against Rose, crouched when his birdie putt curled in the back of the cup. He clenched both fists and shook them repeatedly. He shouted multiple times. He blew a kiss to the gallery as it chanted his name. He crouched one more time, placing his hand on the green and then slamming his fist into the turf.

“It was just a lot of things going through my mind,” he said.

Along with the happy reflections of the people around him – including Angela Akins, the former Golf Channel reporter he plans to marry in July – that final burst of emotion was thinking about “moments that unfortunately didn't go the way I wanted.”

Garcia is not the first player who endured bad breaks and heartache in the majors before finally winning one.

Tom Kite won the PGA Tour money title twice and had played in 67 majors as a pro before he won the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach when he was 42. Corey Pavin was 36 when he hit that 4-wood onto the 18th green at Shinnecock Hills and won the 1995 U.S. Open. Mark O'Meara had 14 victories on the PGA Tour when he won the 1998 Masters at 41.

Garcia is no longer that 19-year-old with curly hair and freckles, sprinting up the fairway at Medinah as he tried to chase down Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship. There is gray in his goatee. There are scars from majors.

And there was a green jacket on his shoulders.

It looked as if it belonged there all along.