Ryder Cup 2021: Sergio Garcia back in 'good place' thanks to crucial break

Eleven years on from finding himself at a low ebb in both golf and life, things have turned out pretty well for Sergio Garcia - and the Spaniard knows it.

Sergio Garcia chats with Luke Donald, left, and Lee Westwood during the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales. Picture: Jamie Squire/Getty Images.

He now has a major under his belt, became Europe’s all-time Ryder Cup record points scorer in the 2018 match in France and is set to make his tenth playing appearance after securing one of Padraig Harrington’s three picks for next week’s match at Whistling Straits.

Off the course, he’s been happily married to wife Angela for four years and the couple have two children - daughter Azalea and son Enzo.

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In every aspect, Garcia is in a much better place than when he missed out on playing in the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor after taking a break from the game in the aftermath of a painful break up with then girlfriend Morgan-Leigh Norman, Greg’s daughter.

Serving as one of Colin Montgomerie’s vice-captains in Wales seemed to help galvanise Garcia and now he’s relishing the chance to justify Harrington’s faith in him, as he did after also having to rely on a pick from Thomas Bjorn three years ago.

“That’s a good question,” replied the 41-year-old to being asked if he perhaps wouldn’t be looking forward to locking horns with the Americans again in Wisconsin if it hadn’t been for the events of 2010.

“I don’t know. I do know I wasn’t in a good place back then, and I needed some time to reassess. I want to say hopefully I could have still done everything I’ve done since then, that I could have played the Ryder Cup in 2010 and still kept going.

“But I think everything happens for a reason, and I’m very happy with where I am right now - personally and professionally. I’ve got a great family, I’m a major champion, and I love playing golf as much as ever. And I’m just so excited to be part of another Ryder Cup 11 years after that little break.”

Sergio Garcia encourages the crowd during the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor. Picture: Jamie Squire/Getty Images.

He laughed when it was suggested he’d have 30 points by now if he’d kept ploughing on and made Montgomerie’s team. “Or maybe not,” he replied. “Maybe still 25 and a half. Maybe less.

“Maybe I would have won a few there and not proved so strong afterwards without taking time out. Like I said, who knows? But I’m happy with how it’s turned out.”

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Despite the pair having had issues in the past, Harrington said Garcia would be the “heart and soul” of his team after handing the 2017 Masters champion a pick along with Ian Poulter and Shane Lowry.

Europe captain Colin Montgomerie celebrates with vice captain Sergio Garcia during the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor. Picture: Jamie Squire/Getty Images.

“It means more, without a doubt,” said Garcia of that recognition than his actual points record in the biennial contest. “I have always said it. I love that team room.

"You can’t believe how excited I get to be a part of that, to joke with the guys, to get to know the new boys, and to put my arm around some of the rookies - and even the non-rookies.

“We all need a little lift at times, no matter how often we’ve been through this. Whoever needs a hug will get one. That includes me, because other players will open up to me and maybe just give you a little punch on the shoulder to say, ‘hey, it’s alright - we’re in this together.’

“Those things mean so much. They are so meaningful to me, and that’s the main reason why I love the Ryder Cup so much.”

Garcia, who made his first appearance in the event alongside Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie at Brookline in 1999, is heading into the 43rd edition in fine fettle, having made it to the season-ending Tour Championship in the US for the first time since 2017.

“I don’t know if it is the best I’ve played in the build-up, but it’s certainly up there,” he said. “I think the best was in 2008, when I was coming off an amazing year. But, unfortunately, I got sick the week before and that kind of drained me going into the Ryder Cup. I just didn’t have the energy that I wanted to have.

“And, to be perfectly honest, that’s why I took the gamble of not going and playing (in the BMW PGA Championship, the final qualifying event) at Wentworth. I felt like at 41 - and as Padraig kindly pointed out, I’m not getting any younger! - I didn’t want to travel so much, and play four weeks in a row.

“I thought even if I play great and qualify by right - or just play well enough to show I deserve a wild card - you still have to get over jet lag, and adjust to the time frame again. So I didn’t want to have to do that.

“I would rather take the chance that I would be picked and get to the Ryder Cup with the batteries full on, and ready to do what I know I can do, not just for myself, but for the team.

“I’d rather do that than risk being a little bit drained, a little bit down, and not be able to bring what I know I can. So yeah, it was a bit of a gamble not being at Wentworth, but Padraig knew the reasons for it.”

Is this when the excitement starts? “It started the moment qualification began,” said Garcia. “Obviously it grows bigger as you get closer to the Ryder Cup itself. But, as soon as you can start earning points, I get super-excited about what lies ahead.”

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