Given the professional career Sergio Garcia has experienced to this point, you would imagine he is a firm believer in the Friedrich Nietzsche quote that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
After all, the Spaniard came up short in major championships 73 times before he finally crossed into the winner’s circle earlier this year at Augusta National.
Yet while that Masters win at the age of 37 extracted the monkey from his back, Garcia still does not feel ready to play with the abandon one might have supposed he would.
Particularly when it comes to the Open Championship.
His history with the oldest major provides a snapshot of his career in all of the big four before he pulled on the Green Jacket after edging his showdown with Justin Rose in April.
Ten top-10 finishes including two as runner-up neatly summarise the frustrations Garcia has endured at the Open Championship and are the reason he is not treating his Masters success as the gateway to further major glory.
Second to Pádraig Harrington in a play-off at Carnoustie in 2007 and then to Rory McIlroy at Royal Liverpool in 2014, Garcia’s heartache in this tournament has not diminished because of his success elsewhere, however significant Augusta National was.
“No, they’re still painful because they’re chances that you wish you would have taken and unfortunately you didn’t,” Garcia said yesterday at Royal Birkdale. “It definitely made the Masters more enjoyable, I would put it that way.”
Garcia, currently world number five, has missed the cut in this tournament four times, most recently in 2012 but since that low point he has played the famous links venues to a consistently high standard, finishing 21st, second, sixth and fifth.
“The Open, it’s one of my favourite tournaments of all year... I get so pumped up with the crowds and the kind of golf we have to play here, it obviously helps out. But I’ve always said that consistency is one of my greatest attributes throughout my career. And of course I could have won more, but I think the consistency I’ve had for the last 19 years or 18, 19 years, is not that easy to do. And I think some people overlook that. So that’s pretty much more of the same that I’ve been able to do in a lot of majors and at the Open. Hopefully I can make that even better this week.”
Yet that Masters win will still, he insisted, count for nothing when Garcia tees it up at the Open for the 21st consecutive year on Thursday.
“Winning the Masters was amazing and it does give you a little bit of extra confidence, and I’ve been having a very solid year. So all of those things are great. But every week is different, and you don’t know how you’re going to feel when you go out there on the course.
“So obviously I am excited about it. I am confident about my possibilities, but I can’t tell you if I’m going to be right up there on Sunday with a chance. I’m hoping that I will be but unfortunately it doesn’t work like that every week.
“So at the end of the day you also have to realise that after winning Augusta, you still want to push hard and get more majors. So it’s not like everything is done and that’s it. So I guess it’s kind of a knife with two edges or two blades, however you say it.”
If Garcia needed further motivation, and that is doubtful, it could come from his Spanish patriotism. Three months on from making his major breakthrough on what would have been Seve Ballesteros’s 60th birthday, success for the Masters champion this weekend would add to a seriously good run of sporting form for his homeland.
Jon Rahm’s victory at Portstewart in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open was followed by Rafa Cabrera-Bello’s win last Sunday at the Scottish Open, putting Spain on course for a hat-trick of victories on links courses, never mind the Spanish successes in other sports, from Real Madrid’s Champions League final win to Rafa Nadal’s French Open tennis title and last Saturday’s Wimbledon triumph for Garbine Muguruza.
“It would be amazing (to add to that),” he said. “It’s been a fun year for Spanish sports, but for Spanish golf it’s been great. I want to say it’s probably the winningest year we’ve had on Spanish golf, between the PGA Tour and the European Tour, or one of them. So it’s very exciting to see that, to see guys that you’re friendly with winning and fellow countrymen doing great things. So we’re going to try to keep it as much as possible.”
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