Unless something REALLY crazy happens tomorrow at Carnoustie, Sergio Garcia is going to win the British Open and claim his first-ever major title.
Sure, it’s only a 3-stroke lead over Steve Stricker, but Garcia has been in such control of his swing and his game that he’s made just three bogeys in 54 holes. His time has come. While he’s sniffed around at several majors since bursting onto the scene in 1999, Sergio has been known for NOT being able to close the deal when given the chance. Sunday, he’ll finally bring it home.
Earlier this week, fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros announced his retirement from competitive golf. He picked Carnoustie as the site for his announcement because his first-ever British Open was at Carnoustie in 1975.
Garcia was – as are all young Spanish golfers – a devout follower of Ballesteros during his hey-day, which included two Masters titles and three British Open crowns, the last of which came in 1988 at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, where he literally made a par from the car-park behind the 16th green. Seve’s swash-buckling, no fear style was the envy of all back in the ’80’s – he could – and would – make shots that NO ONE else in the game could ever make. It was his imagination…his creativity…his, as they would say in Spain, “corazon” – or heart – that would get him by just as much as his golf swing.
And then along came Garcia. A 19-year old prodigy, he dated more models than he won championships in his early 20’s and many thought he was more worried about who he was bedding than what holes he was birdieing. Garcia’s wobbly putting stroke usually let him down under the gun, so it’s even more evident that this is HIS week when it’s noted he’s had 17 putts of 3-feet to 10-feet in three rounds thus far and he’s made 15 of them. You KNOW he’s going to win if he’s putting that well.
And he owes it all to Ballesteros. Rarely, if ever, has one individual in sports carried a country’s hopes and dreams like Seve did with the Spanish golf fans. Pele in Brazil…Gretzky in Canada…Norman in Australia…those are a few who rivaled Ballesteros for home-country love, but make no mistake about it, Seve did it differently than the others. Pele did it with flair. Gretzky did it with dramatics. Norman did it with power. But Seve…he did it with magic. No off-line shot was unrecoverable for Ballesteros. No shot couldn’t be made. Nothing was impossible. And Garcia has some of that in him as well. Only time will tell if he has five majors in his system, but if he wins on Sunday at Carnoustie, it would only be fitting to have Seve at the podium afterwards, handing over the trophy to Spain’s newest golfing golden boy.
For golf, this is exactly what the doctor ordered. Garcia is the last of a dying breed. He doesn’t have to hit it 320 down the middle to win. He doesn’t have a text-book swing, although it’s worth noting that his flattish take away and laid-off-at-the-top-backswing have worked wonders in Scotland, where a low-ball flight is optimum to fight the winds. If ever he was going to win a British Open, Scotland is the place. But more than that, golf needs Garcia to win. With that monkey off of his back, and the first major in his sights if he finishes the job on Sunday, we might see a Sergio who’s more relaxed, more loose, and more magical. That’s how Seve won…loose, relaxed and magical.
Seve called it quits this week. But Spain has a new hero to proudly wrap their arms around. Hopefully no one forgets about Ballesteros tomorrow when Garcia kisses the claret jug. After all, the trophy has a lot of smudges on it from the days that Ballesteros lugged it around Madrid and all points in between, sharing it with Spanish golf fans everywhere.