Sergio Garcia Has Promises to Keep

Monte Isom

Sergio Garcia has the look of a guy who wants it fast. Cars. Fame. Money. Majors. Since he dropped anchor at 1999's Byron Nelson with a jaw-dropping 62 and the swagger of a playboy who still had playdates, Garcia's been on a high-speed chase. There was an impetuous flash in his eye, a voracity deeper — it seemed — than most players have to be winners. There was something about Garcia that said, I want this now and watch me, I'm gonna take it.Don't be mistaken, the look is still there, but it's muted, like the flipside of a turned leaf.

The majors haven't come — not yet. Whether it was too much, too young, and the world being too hasty, Garcia stopped holding his breath along with the rest of us. He's older now, 26, more mature and less arrogant, but he still wants it. The ex-next big thing is just cashing in some passion for perspective.

You own a soccer team (Borriol, a fifth division club in Spain). What's your record?
Well, we just started. We played five games; we won two and lost two and tied one. Do you play with them? I usually practice with them, but I don't play in any games.

Do you ever wish you'd been a professional soccer player instead of a golfer?
Well, as a youngster I did. In Spain, soccer is like football or baseball here. As a youngster everybody wants to be a soccer player, but as I grew up I started playing more golf. I'm really happy with my life and the way things are going. But if I could go back in time and choose another sport, another profession, I'd probably choose soccer.

What do you love most about owning the team?
Well, I'm the president and I like trying to improve the team, not only the players, but the locker rooms and the pitch, and everything for the youngsters, the little guys that come and play soccer. That's pretty much what I love to do, and hopefully make it a better club, not only a better team but a better club.

Will there ever come a time when Tiger is chasing you?
Well, I hope so. I don't know, but I hope so.

Was the Battle at Bighorn (2000) not as triumphant a victory for you because Tiger was a little under the weather?
Um, you know, I don't believe in those things.

What things?
Well, I think that we both played 100 percent, and I just was either lucky enough or good enough to beat him that time. So I don't really believe in all that. I won. That's all.

What is "it" for you and how badly do you want it?
To keep getting better, not only as a golfer but as a person. And when I'm getting ready to leave this world, to realize that I've done everything possible to be a better person, and to help as many people as I possibly could.

If Tiger quit tomorrow, would you, like Alexander, weep because there'd be no more worlds to conquer?
A little bit. Yes. He's done a lot of good things for golf. You can't take that away from him, and it would be sad, in a way. But I don't think that's going to happen (laughs).

Right. Rhetorical question. So, would you say you're wild?
Um, a little bit. I wouldn't say I'm the wildest guy out there. I like to do some wild things.

Jesper Parnevik has said that you've never even been drunk. Still true?
I have since, a couple of times. I've gone out with friends where I've gotten drunk, or my friends have. But the thing is once somebody gets really drunk, you have to take care of them, so you're not enjoying your night anymore, you have to take care of your friends, you know? Because that's what you're supposed to do — they're your friends. So I don't want to ruin anybody's night because of me being so wasted that they have to take care of me.

What's the scariest shot you've faced during a round?
A lot of them. The one I was the most nervous at, and probably was the scariest, was when I was 16. I played the British Open for the first time. On the first tee at Royal Lytham — I was the most nervous I've ever been then.

Which is more important to you — winning a major or winning the Ryder Cup?
Both. At the moment, probably a major, because I've won two Ryder Cups but I haven't won any majors. Yet. But they're both huge. I always enjoy playing team events, so Ryder Cup is a huge deal and is something I really enjoy. But majors are out there, and I want to try to play as well and win as many as possible.

You have a 6-foot putt to win or lose the Ryder Cup. Who do you want taking it?
Um, a 6-foot putt to win the Ryder Cup, probably, uh, from my team, probably Colin Montgomerie — he's always clutch at those times. And Thomas Bjorn is really good at those, too. So, somebody like those two, somebody with experience whose been there before and done it.

What's the best and worst thing about Sergio Garcia?
(Laughing) You should probably ask somebody else.

I already did. I want to see if you give the same answers.
Ah. Well, the best thing is I like to be a good friend to my friends. I try to meet people quite often, make a lot of friends. And the worst thing, well, when somebody does something wrong to me, I can shut down the friendship a little too quick.

Is emotion a big part of your game?
Definitely.

Some people have called you a spoiled brat. An anonymous Tour player said you've never hit a bad shot that was your own fault. That you place blame elsewhere whenever possible. Is that true?
I wouldn't say so. No. I don't know who said that. I know when something is my fault, and when I do something wrong, I realize it. But we are all that way. When we hit a bad shot, we try to blame somebody else at first, but then you think about it and you realize it was really your problem. So, no — I wouldn't say that about me.

Would you say you've changed? That you have been guilty of being bratty in the past, but have since changed?
I think so, yeah. We all get better with experience and we all learn from our mistakes, and the most important thing is to learn.

Why haven't you won a major? You were the next big thing, but you don't have the trophies you should have to prove it. What's stopping you?
Uh, maybe because I'm not finishing first? (laughs)

Funny.
You know, I think I've had my chances. Probably I haven't putted well enough. But it's coming.

Adam Scott said you were the biggest flirt, the biggest lady-killer on tour. True?
(Laughing) You know — I'm single, so I, you know, I like to have fun.

And you went on a few dates with Jessica Alba, right?
She's nice.

No good?
(Laughing) We just went out for a couple of nights. That was about it.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Same spot.

But your personal life. Marriage, kids?
Ah. Jesus, well, uh, you never know, those things, you never know when they're going to come. But I guess that would be right around the age. The age where I'll be thinking about getting married.

You do want kids?
Oh yeah, I love kids.

What's your biggest regret?
I don't think I have any. I'm happy with everything I've done. I don't have any regrets. The mistakes you make, you learn from those. So, we've seen you grow up, from a kid to a young man, before our eyes.

But what's one thing we don't know about Sergio Garcia?
If you don't know it, there must be a reason (laughing).

Tell us something that would surprise us.
People already know pretty much everything about my life. You know I like cars and speed and sports. And you know I love Spain, soccer. Are you worth the hype? Um, I hope so (laughing).

What's one aspect of somebody else's game that you wish you had?
Probably Tiger's putting.

What's your greatest fear?
I try not to have many. I guess losing a loved one. That always makes me quite fearful.

How much is your father, Victor, a factor in your life?
Well, beyond golf, he's a huge factor in my whole life. He's been huge for me, and done so much, as any good father should do. He's done so many good things for me, teaching me not only how to play golf, but how to go about life, and try to be calm like all the better golfers are.

Is there pressure on you to carry on the legacy of Seve and Jose Maria?
I wouldn't say so. We all have our goals and things we want to do. So I wouldn't put it that way. For me, it's great that I can be a part of that group, from Spain, with Seve, Olazabal, Miguel Angel ...

What motivates you? Seriously. You're wealthy enough to retire, why not just quit and live it up?
I keep going because I don't play for the money. What I try to do is to get that winning feeling. Inside I'm a winner, and that's what I play for. And so I just keep working hard to try to win those little trophies that make you proud and make you honored in your career.

MAJOR ISSUES
Since his lightning-bolt rookie year in 1999, Garcia's chase for a major has been an uncanny tale of almost ... but not quite Sergio chasing Tiger at the 2002 U.S. Open.

1999
PGA Championship: He claims the first-round lead but eventually finishes second to Tiger Woods after hitting a memorable shot on the 16th hole from behind a tree with his eyes closed. Finishes one stroke behind Woods for the solo second, his best finish in a major to date.
2000
British Open: Starts 68-69-73. Strong! Finishes with 76 (weak!) and drops to T36.
2001
U.S. Open: A clunker final round 77 plummets him from T3 to T12.
2002
U.S. Open: Within two strokes after Tiger Woods three-putted the first two holes of the final round, Garcia loses steam after airmailing three greens and being unable to save par from the neck-high rough. Cards a 74 to finish fourth. Garcia has top 10 finishes in all four majors in '02, the only player to do so that season.
2003
British Open: Two shots off the lead going into the final round. A 69 would have gotten him into a playoff with Ben Curtis, but he cards a 74 and finishes tied for 10th.
2004
Masters: Final round 66 ties for fourth. Second career top 10 at Augusta.
U.S. Open: T9 going into the final round, but cards an 80 to drop all the way to T20.

2005
U.S. Open: Ties for 3rd, his second best finish in a major.

Teacher-Student Relationship
When Sergio Garcia first emerged, his countryman Seve Ballesteros acted as a sort of mentor, and he's been keeping a sharp eye on the younger man's growth ever since. Here, the elder superstar gets behind Garcia's game to outline his major potential.

What would surprise us most about Sergio — something we don't know from media and press?
Nothing surprises me about Sergio. He acts according to his youth. I think he's a very natural kid, and he acts and expresses himself as such. In addition, his virtues more than compensate for whatever defects he may have. As to the media, I think they know what they need to know. Sergio doesn't invite everyone into his kitchen. And as such, his privacy must be unquestionable.

If you absolutely had to put a timeframe on it — when and where do you think he'll win his first major?
It's very complicated to establish a date or a specific tournament because it would depend on the state of his form and spirit. However, given his tremendous qualities and talent, he is poised to win his first major tournament at any moment. I would say that he will surely win more than one major because he has more than enough potential.

Is he still too emotional? Does he care what people think?
Sergio is very emotional because he's an extroverted person and someone like him doesn't mask his emotions. He doesn't worry what people think, which is very good for him.

What's his best quality on the course?
The best quality of Sergio's out in the field is that he's a very aggressive player so his game is very colorful.

>Do you think he has what it takes to challenge Tiger? He should not challenge Tiger. He should compete with his own game, and not be obsessed with Tiger's. Tiger is No. 1 but he's not invincible.

What's one important life lesson he has yet to learn?
He has to learn many things because he is so young. At 26, who knows everything? No one.

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