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Monkey off the back for Sergio Garcia

The Spaniard has, in his over 17-year-long career as a professional golfer, faced more downs than ups. But with the win at Augusta, the 37-year-old finally tasted a major tournament victory.

Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia's long-awaited first ever major tournament victory came on April 9 after he beat Briton Justin Rose in a sudden-death playoff after they both completed the 72 holes in nine-under-par. By winning the 2017 Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia, Sergio Garcia emerged as the dark horse. Garcia became only the third Spanish golfer to win the Masters, after the late Seve Ballesteros and José María Olazábal. But it is not Garcia's nationality that makes his victory special. It is his sheer perseverance, patience and never-say-die attitude that make his victory special.

The Spaniard has, in his over 17-year-long career as a professional golfer, faced more downs than ups and has spent a majority of his career in the shadow of Tiger Woods – arguably the greatest player of his era. With his first major victory, however, Garcia must have heaved a major sigh of relief; after all, the Masters was the 74th major championship that he played in. His tryst with win began in 1999, when he finished runner-up to a then 23-year-old Tiger Woods, who had won his first PGA Championship and second major tournament. That tournament was the beginning of a long-time rivalry between the two talented golfers.

Garcia has spent a majority of his career in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Ranking, but never reached the summit. His peak ranking has been 2nd, which he reached after winning the HSBC Champions tournament in November 2008. Between 2000 and 2009, he spent over 300 weeks remaining in the top 10 best golfers. Yet, for all his acumen, he could not win enough major tournaments to be labelled as a force to reckon with.

Perhaps it was this inability to win a major tournament which manifested into Garcia's game in the form of his frustration. Before his victory in Augusta, Garcia had finished in the top 10 of 22 tournaments. Over the years, Garcia has often been criticised by his peers for his lack of consistency and, more importantly, composure. A couple of days after his Masters win, Garcia was congratulated by Irish golfer Padraig Harrington. But Harrington minced no words in criticising Garcia's attitude over the past few years. Harrington had defeated Garcia in contentious battles at the 2007 Open Championship and 2008 PGA Championship to win both majors.

Talking about how Garcia coped with the loss in 2007, Harrington said: "I gave him every out I possibly could have at the 2007 Open. I was as polite as I could and was as generous as I could be, but he was a very sore loser. And he continued to be a very sore loser. Clearly, after that, we have had a very sticky (relationship)."
Garcia also happens to have a sharp ear, one which often does him more harm than good. During the Honda Classic tournament in February this year, Garcia became a bit too intent while hearing a few people in the crowd near the 17th tee at a hospitality venue. Some of those spectators crossed the line and spoke rudely about Garcia, which caused him to lose concentration. Now, with the monkey off his back, it can be expected that he would go the distance and complete a coveted Grand Slam – winning all the four major golf tournaments in one year. This, however, is very unlikely as age is not on Garcia's side. Golf may well be a sport that athletes well into their forties can excel in. But with the emergence of younger, more energetic players such as Rory McIlory, Jordan Speith, Rickie Fowler, Thomas Pieters and Jon Rahm, Garcia might probably have to content himself with the lone major tournament.
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