Think back, if you will, to the summer of 2007. Sergio Garcia, still the child prodigy to most of our memories, was having a fine year, and was flat outplaying the rest of the field at Carnoustie.
It seemed destiny that Sergio would win his first major championship at a golf course that insists all golf shots are hit to perfection, and heading into Sunday at that British Open, it seemed Garcia would be leaving with the Claret Jug and the first of many major championships.
But he didn't. Sergio had a par putt on the 72nd hole to win the thing outright, but couldn't get it to fall, and ended up losing to Padraig Harrington in a playoff. It would seem a man of Sergio's character might collapse after such a close call, but he bounced back. He won the Players Championship in '08, and again had a chance at a major, the PGA Championship, that Harrington would end up snatching in '08. And that is where the Sergio story stops.
On Sunday afternoon, Colin Montgomerie made his Ryder Cup captain's pick announcement, and as anyone that knows golf expected, Garcia wasn't on the team. Well, he wasn't on the team as a player. Monty graciously invited Sergio to be the fourth vice captain for the European squad, hoping that his energy and knowledge of the team competition will benefit the rookie class that Captain Colin will take to Wales. But, more than that, it emphasized the fact that Sergio might never be the Sergio we all expected when he became a household name at the 1999 PGA Championship.
So what are we to think of the now 30-year-old Garcia? Are his best golf days behind him? Did he really find that dark place that professional golfers occasionally visit that gets them on the fast track to an announcing booth?
All those questions come down to one thing, and one thing only: Is the fire still there, or did it die like he has hinted at?
Sergio famously said he'd take two months off after the PGA Championship this year in hopes that some time away will get him excited about the game again. The thing is, Garcia has been moping around the links for nearly two years, and seems as excited to be playing in tournaments as Scottie Pippen was when Phil Jackson drew up a play for Toni Kukoc (you're welcome for the dated analogy).
We may never see the old Sergio again, but you have to respect a guy that will take his lumps, and head to a golf event that he won't be featured in. It says a lot about his maturity that he'd go to a Ryder Cup as a coach and not a player. Do you think Tiger Woods would happily fly to Wales if Corey Pavin failed to pick him? Exactly.