Sergio Garcia became the number two golfer in the Official World Golf Rankings this month with his win at the HSBC Champions tournament. Since Phil Mickelson won his first Masters, Garcia has been among a small group of poor souls that are tagged Best Never to Win a Major. Today, he is the nearly undisputed holder of that title.
All that may be about to change. Every time a major rolls around, one or more media pundit pick him to win. Eventually, one of these folks is going to be right about him. He's got too much game from tee to green to keep coming up short. His putting has been his Waterloo, but he's getting better. All he has to do is put together four good putting rounds at the right time. His ball striking is rarely an issue. He just needs to find a way to get the ball in the hole.
Right now, Garcia's game is red hot. Since August, he's been in three playoffs, winning one. He's also notched two worldwide wins. April is a long way off, but when it comes around Garcia is almost sure to be a favorite at the Masters (along with Tiger Woods, most likely).
Some will not be happy when Garcia finally wins his major. El Niño has a bit of checkered past of unflattering post-round interviews, Ryder Cup bravado, and one infamous expectoration. But it's hard to argue that this guy is going to win a major, and probably soon. So while we still can, let's get in a quick nine with the Best Player Never to Win a Major.
Hole Number One: An Early Start
Sergio GarcÃa was born Jan. 9th, 1980 in Castellon, Spain. He began learning the game at the age of three, from his father, Vitor. Success came early. Sergio won his club championship at age 12. Four years later, he became the youngest player ever to make a cut on the European Tour when he did so at the Turespana Open Mediterranea. That same year, 1995, he also became the youngest player to win the European Amateur. In 1998, he added the British Amateur. Following the 1999 Masters, where he finished as Low Amateur, Garcia turned pro.
Hole Number Two: ¡Hola a Todo el Mundo!
GarcÃa burst into the general public's consciousness by holding his own down the stretch with Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship, eventually finishing second. The signature moment was when after hitting a cut shot from behind a tree, he chased down the fairway after it and jumped with a scissors-kick to see how the shot finished.
Hole Number Three: Deuces Wild
Garcia's 2008 was pretty good, but it could have been better. He finished 2nd three times… twice in playoffs in the, well, Playoffs (the Barclays and Tour Championship). His third runner-up finish was at the PGA Championship, and he his sole PGA Tour win this year came at the Players Championship (which he won in a playoff over Paul Goydos).
His 11 top 25 finishes out of 18 cuts made (in just 19 starts) made for a very lucrative season. Garcia earned nearly $5 million dollars on the PGA Tour in 2008.
Hole Number Four: Some Bugaboos Persist
Putting has been El Niño's downfall for the past several years. He seems to miss more short putts when in contention than anyone, with the possible exception of Vijay Singh when the stroke totally leaves him.
Though Garcia has notably improved his putting under the tutelage of Stan Utley, he still finished 2008 107th in putting on the PGA Tour averaging 1.792 putts per green (29.61 per round). His 2008 putts per round average was actually up from 2007's stellar 28.62 (17th on Tour), but better than 2006 (29.78/176th), 2005 (30.16), 2004 (29.98), and 2003 (30.02).
Hole Number Five: Good Company
In the two years that the FedEx Cup has been around, only four players have finished in the top-10 both seasons — Vijay Singh (10th in 2007, 1st in 2008), Sergio Garcia (9th, 3rd), Phil Mickelson (3rd, 7th) and K.J. Choi (5th, 10th). If not for playoff losses to Singh and Camilo Villegas, Garcia might have won twice in the 2008 playoffs and taken the FedEx Cup.
Hole Number Seven: Home Cooking
Garcia came full circle in October when he won the CastellÃ³ Masters Costa Azahar, his first European Tour title in over three years. The win took place at the same course, the Club de Campo del MediterrÃ¡neo in CastellÃ³n, where he won the club championship as a tweener. The win brought him up to third in the Official World Golf Rankings. He dedicated the victory to fellow countryman Seve Ballesteros, who was recovering from multiple operations on a brain tumor.
Then two weeks ago, Garcia won the 2008 HSBC Champions (which was oddly enough the opening event on the 2009 European Tour season). He did so in, you guessed it, a playoff, this time over Oliver Wilson. With the win, he moved to number two in the world, displacing Phil Mickelson who had won the 2007 HSBC Champions.
Hole Number Eight: The Spit
At the 2007 WGC-Championship, El Niño put his immaturity on display for the whole world when he dropped a loogie in the cup after missing a short putt. The move garnered a lot of venom on the Sand Trap Forum.
Hole Number Nine: Girls, Girls, Girls
While it would be great to have the golf game of any PGA Tour player, having Sergio's off-course game might be even better. Adam Scott once described Sergio as "the biggest flirt and the biggest ladykiller on the tour." Sergio has famously dated tennis great Martina Hingis, and, perhaps more impressively, actress Jessica Alba and model Nikki Novak. During the 2006 Ryder Cup, his then blossoming romance with Morgan-Leigh Norman (Greg's daughter) was nearly as big of a story as the Euros' dominance on the course. Though they've been out of the news for awhile, the two are reportedly seeing each other again. Apparently, hot girls aren't afraid of a little expectoration.
Photo Credits: © The Sand Trap .com.