Wednesday, February 21, 2007
If you were one of the top dozen players in the world, would you remake your swing? That takes courage, guts, But last year, after struggling to reach his vast potential, 24-year-old Sergio Garcia took the risk. In 2002 he'd won $2.4 million, finished in the top 10 in all four majors and risen to fourth in the world. Still he was dissatisfied. It wasn't enough for ambitious "El Nino," the kid who shot to stardom at the PGA Championship at Medinah in his rookie year, with an eyes-shut miracle shot that announced his arrival on the world stage.

\nYet he finished a stroke behind Tiger Woods that day, and while Garcia's name kept popping up on leader boards at the majors in the next four years, he never closed the deal. "He was going to be the guy who battled Tiger," says Garcia's buddy Jesper Parnevik. "That's hard to live up to."

Sergio was a crowd pleaser, with his
("luck-or-death") style and bold swing -- a quirky motion in which he drew the club back to the outside, looped it back in line with the target and let the clubhead lag far behind to generate power. But by the spring of 2003 he had decided he needed a move that would hold up better under Sunday-at-Augusta pressure. As a career move, it took courage -- or something.

\n"It takes some real stones to change your swing when you're one of the top 10 or 15 golfers in the world," says NBC's Jimmy Roberts. "It's a leap of faith."

Like the jump he made after that miracle shot at Medinah, it's a leap Garcia takes with nothing held back. On or off the course, he might be the game's most romantic character.

\n"He's romantic all right. He's chased my nannies around a few times," says Parnevik, whose children's babysitters have included Woods's fiancee, Elin Nordegren. Undaunted by his breakup with tennis goddess Martina Hingis last year, Garcia went clubbing with model Nikki Novak after they filmed a Michelob commercial about (what else?) going clubbing. In October he cavorted with Hollywood starlet Jessica Alba in Las Vegas.

\n"Don't worry, Sergio won't calm down," says Parnevik. "He'll always be the caffeine jolt of the Tour."

\nWe sent sportswriter Luis Fernando Llosa to meet with Garcia. They spoke in Sergio's native Spanish, and Llosa delivered a free-flowing chat with GOLF MAGAZINE's most ebullient Contributing Player, who expects to make headlines this year.


GOLF
GARCIA

GOLF
GARCIA pinchando a otros

[pestering others]. Now I get along with practically every player on Tour. Especially Vijay, Jesper, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Charles Howell. When I play with Ernie or Retief, my caddie, Glenn [Murray], and I put stuff in their bags -- stones, full bottles of water -- to weigh them down. When their caddies try to shoulder the bags, they get a shock.



GOLF
GARCIA camino de rosas

[path of roses]. It's hard work. There are times you hit a

mala rachilla, ganas,

GOLF
GARCIA lo maximo golpe,

GOLF
GARCIA

GOLF
GARCIA

GOLF
GARCIA bonito

[pretty] is that my ball was in a very bad position, stuck in high rough. I hit with all my might and barely moved it! It took two minutes just to find it. Then I was able to hit it onto the fairway, 67 yards out. From there I was hoping to get close enough to make five, bogey, and escape without too much damage. And the ball went in the hole. It was like scoring a

golazo loco.

GOLF
GARCIA

GOLF
GARCIA Terminator 3 Bad Boys II las de amor.

GOLF
GARCIA hombre.

GOLF
GARCIA

GOLF
GARCIA

GOLF
GARCIA

GOLF
GARCIA

GOLF
GARCIA



GOLF
GARCIA

GOLF
GARCIA



GOLF
GARCIA

GOLF
GARCIA ganas

\nGOLF And what if it doesn't work out?
GARCIA You have to try with all the confidence in the world and be OK with how it turns out. When you are way up there, everybody loves you, but when you are heading down, there will not be so many. At the end of the day there's you, your family and a couple of friends, and that's it.

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