It’s finally starting to sink in. Day one waking up to see the Green Jacket hanging in the wardrobe feels like a dream. Day two, though, proves otherwise. Just ask new Masters champion Sergio Garcia.
“The last 24 hours have been fun,” said the Spaniard, still smiling like a Cheshire cat. “They’ve been pretty hectic with interviews. At the same time, it has been amazing. I’ve enjoyed every minute. This morning was probably the first time that it is finally starting to sink in. When I opened the closet and saw the jacket hanging there, I couldn’t help but laugh and smile.”
Speaking to the Golf Channel from New York, where he was photographed at the top of the Empire State Building on Monday wearing that coveted new item of clothing, Garcia talked about his delight at finally shaking off that unwanted tag of “greatest player never to win a major”. At the same time, though, he insisted that his new status is not going to be a life-changing experience.
“I’ve said this many times before and now obviously I don’t have to say it again as I have won one. To me, winning a major wasn’t going to change my life,” added the 37-year-old. “It wasn’t going to change my life from miserable to great. I’ve never felt like that because I have a great life. I feel before Sunday I had a good career, but now obviously it is much better. I never felt I wasn’t doing well, even though people might be saying ‘he should be winning this, he should be winning that’. You are never going to please everyone, but I could see that there were a lot of people who were happy for me on Sunday.”
Garcia’s closest call prior to this in 73 previous majors had come in the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie, where he led for the first three rounds, missed a putt to claim the Claret Jug on the final green, before losing out in a play-off to Padraig Harrington. By the sounds of things, he was almost resigned to defeat on that occasion. Not on Sunday, though, as he overcame a similar situation on the 72nd hole to beat Justin Rose with a birdie at the first hole in a play-off. “It was totally different from Carnoustie for a couple of reasons,” said Garcia.
“First of all, I was playing really well all day and I was very calm. Second of all, I didn’t feel as though I lost it by missing my birdie putt at the last. At Carnoustie, I made a bogey at the last and it doesn’t feel the same when you don’t have momentum going into a play-off. This time I was feeling very comfortable, I was very positive and I had also shown a lot of patience throughout the whole day on Sunday. Anything can happen in a play-off, of course, but I still believed that I could do it.”
If Garcia could turn back the clock to when he became a professional at 19, what would he tell himself now based on the ups and downs in his career? “There are so many things that I could say to him,” he declared. “But, at the same time, it is all a learning process. We all get tested in our lives and everything happens for a reason because we need to learn and go through things to make sure that we grow as a person, not only as a golfer. So, I would probably tell him what I told myself when I turned pro, ‘just enjoy what you do, be kind to people. Just go out there and have fun, simple as that’.”
Garcia’s first event as Masters champion will be next month’s Players’ Championship at Sawgrass, where he won the game’s so-called fifth major in 2008 and came close again two years ago, losing in a play-off to Rickie Fowler. “It is one of the things I am most looking forward to,” he said. “Everyone knows how much I love the Players’ Championship, having won there. To be there as Masters champion is going to be extra special. It is going to be my first tournament back and, as I said at Augusta, we are not done yet. It’s obviously been an amazing year [having also included a win in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic] so far. But I feel it can get better so I’ll be working hard to do that.”
Unsurprisingly, his phone has been red hot since Sunday. “In my US number, I still probably have 80 to 85 messages to go through,” he said, laughing. “I don’t even want to see my European number. When I turn it on later this week or when I get back to Europe, hopefully it won’t explode!”