Sergio Garcia is a major champion. It seems this should have been written not long after he finished second in the PGA Championship way back in 1999, but Garcia's career has been strewn with a heartbreaking series of missed chances and final-round collapses. Until now.
With a fierce back-nine comeback Garcia propelled himself in to a tie for the lead with Justin Rose, and outlasted the Olympic Champion with a birdie on the first play-off hole to win his first major title at the 74th time of asking.
It’s been a long time coming, and it would come as little surprise that Sergio Garcia had most likely dismissed that “everything comes to those who waits” saying a long while back. In fact, just five years ago the Spaniard had ruled himself out of ever winning a major championship.
In a press conference after his victory he admitted: ""I think the problem was, because where my head was at sometimes, I did think about if I was ever going to win one."
"I've had so many good chances and either I lost them or someone has done something extraordinary to beat me. So it did cross my mind."
Garcia's most memorable collapses came at the Open Championship in 2007 and the 2008 PGA Championship. At Carnoustie he had led after each of the first three rounds and held a three-shot lead over Steve Stricker before a string of bogeys and a missed par at the last forced him in to a play-off against Padraig Harrington. It was not to be. The next year he led during the back nine of the PGA, but Harrington was there once again to scoop the major title.
But this time, after so many near-misses and much majors heartbreak, Garcia’s patience and persistence finally paid off and was rewarded in full with the most dramatic of Masters victories at Augusta last night.
Garcia clearly couldn’t believe what he’d done: at the ripe not-so-old age of 37 he’d finally made his majors breakthrough and despite Justin Rose’s valiant efforts, nobody deserved it more and could begrudge him his long overdue moment in the majors limelight.
The green jacket, donned twice by his hero and mentor Seve Ballesteros as well as fellow countryman Jose Maria Olazabal, was the perfect fit. The late great Seve would have been 60 yesterday and he would have looked down on his protégé with immense and untold pride and joy.
"It's been such a long time coming," Garcia said after his win.
"To do it on his (Seve's) 60th birthday and to join him and Olazabal, my two idols in golf my whole life, it's something amazing. I'm so happy"
Down the years I’ve been fortunate to interview the new, richly deserved Masters champion numerous times with the first occasion being just before the Open Championship at Royal Lytham in 1996.
At that time, Garcia was being hailed the new Seve and was a cocky, confident teenage kid who had qualified after clinching the European Amateur Championship.
He had the golfing world at his feet and fingertips and sure enough he matured and developed into one of the world’s best players by claiming a whole bunch of European and US PGA Tour wins as well as emerging a regular Ryder Cup hero.
He's spent most of his career in the World's top 10 and with 22 top 10's in majors, there felt noone more deserving than Garcia - who could finally add the title of major champion to his CV.
The last full interview was carried out at Garcia’s home course at Club de Campo del Mediterráneo near Valencia. It’s run by dad Victor and sister Mar and it’s home-sweet-home for Sergio though his playing commitments mean he doesn’t get there as often as he would like.
On that bright sunny day at the start of 2015, Garcia took time out to provide us with the inside track on the Masters and the Augusta National course. We had a giant aerial photo of the course and Sergio carefully plotted his words of wisdom – where to go and where not to go – on one of the world’s most demanding layouts.
At that time we asked him about his chances in a major and he said he believed he could win one. All that he needed was that mental confidence to see out a major win, and at Augusta in 2017 he finally had it.
"I know my game and if I feel comfortable I can win any week and that includes the Majors. With the Majors it’s more of a mental test but I still think I’m capable of winning one… hopefully more!"
The images below were part of his annotated exclusive guide that he provided to us which outlined his game-plan, and as you can see - he executed the back nine in a fairly similar way to the plans he set out back in 2015.