January 08, 2010
Is there a figure in golf today more compelling-slash-frustrating than Sergio Garcia? Possessing all the talent in the world and every conceivable element to make him a world-class and world-famous athlete, Garcia has continually been thisclose to busting through big, and every time he falls just short. He's held the "best to never win a major" title since ... well, since Phil Mickelson won the Masters in 2004, probably.
Sergio turns 30 on Saturday, an age that's long past the sell-by date for "young phenom" but still relatively young in golf terms. Sure, Tiger Woods had won a couple hundred tournaments by the time he was 30, but Mickelson didn't win his first major until he was 33, and Vijay Singh didn't take his until he was 35. So there's time for him to grow into his game, time for him to become the kind of Hall of Fame golfer everyone expected he would be a decade ago when he first appeared on the scene.
Thing is, we don't see Sergio as the kind of golfer who's an elder-statesman type. Mainly, that's because of the way that he broke in, with a low-amateur score at the 1999 Masters followed by a brilliant battle with Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA.
Sergio lost that battle, obviously, but he blasted into the international consciousness and was billed as the "next Tiger" at a time when the first Tiger was still finding his own feet. Even back then, Tiger was cold, precise, mechanical, and Sergio drew legions of fans with his over-the-top joy and exuberance, embodied in this one unbelievable shot:
And while he's had recent success, most notably his win at The Players Championship in 2008, he's also shot himself in the foot with moves like his Augusta whine last year.
But hey, it's his birthday, so let's be charitable. I still think Garcia is going to turn it around/get it straight/whatever and win a few majors before he's done. He's such a mercurial player that if he can get his head on straight for months or years at a time, he'll be tough to beat. Here's hoping his 30s are his best decade yet.