ERIN, Wis. — It was cute how he handled it.
When asked Tuesday morning what the last two months have been like since he won the 2017 Masters and bagged his first green jacket, Sergio Garcia could only giggle.
It was not only adorable that he giggled at the memory of his recent success, but it was also cute that he responded to the question, “What’s the coolest thing you’ve done with the jacket?” with, “Just pretty much wearing the jacket.”
Try as he might to avoid it, Sergio’s life is different now and will be forever. The world happily treats him like a champion now; a king of the golf world and not a jester. Shortly after Augusta, he struck the ceremonial kick-off at Él Clasico, Europe’s biggest soccer match, while clad in his new green coat. Meanwhile, at worldwide water coolers, there were low rumblings of a possible “Sergio Slam.” Links-styled Erin Hills would seem to fit his game perfectly. And meanwhile, here’s Sergio, at his Tuesday press conference, downplaying the significance of his last 65 days.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Sergio sported a green golf shirt but said there was no connection between his polo and the win at Augusta. He also said that he hardly knows Cristiano Ronaldo, the famous footballer who plays for Sergio’s favorite club, Real Madrid. He reiterated how he hadn’t yet played the Erin Hills, and that he wasn’t sure its rolling terrain gave him any kind of edge.
Sergio, is there anything—anything at all—that’s different about you and your approach this week?
“To be totally honest, I don’t think so.”
Reporters pressed, but Sergio gave up very little. He downplayed storylines left and right. Frankly, it was a boring press conference. But that’s how Sergio—the man known for years as anything but dull—thinks he can win at Erin Hills. As he sat in front of the media Tuesday, Sergio chuckled at the idea of the Sergio Slam, and though a second-straight major win would be unexpected, would it be a shock? Expectations for him have rightfully changed.
The major-less, 37-year-old that entered Augusta on April 1 seemed old, beleaguered, and maybe even defeated. The reigning Masters champion at Erin Hills appears battle-tested, eager and youthful. In the time since his Masters win, he’s backed it up by jumping into contention at The Players, tying for 20th at the Byron Nelson, and tying for 12th at Colonial. Garcia said that even in those three events, he wasn’t exactly all there.
“I struggled a little bit with [commitment]. My commitment wasn’t as sharp as it was at the Masters,” Garcia said. “We have to kind of collect ourselves again and make sure that when we get there on the first tee on Thursday that we’re fully committed.”
Getting committed to this major shouldn’t be difficult. The spotlight will be on him once again. Garcia will play alongside major-winners Adam Scott and Bubba Watson for the first two rounds. He’s no longer the Best Player to Never Win a Major. He’s playing a course that is new to him as much as it is to the rest of the field, and he’s got the backing of American fans like never before, which he clearly finds meaningful.
“On Sunday I felt even more supported than in the past, if that’s possible,” Garcia said. “And from the Masters onwards it’s been fun. It’s been fun to be out there and see the people cheering even harder for you than they did before.”
At 2:36 Thursday afternoon, he’ll trot out in front of those American fans looking to win their national championship. If Sergio is getting the hero treatment now, just imagine if he goes out and wins this U.S. Open. Now that’d be something to giggle about.