After taking a two-month self-imposed vacation from the game (of golf) — notwithstanding his influential role as a spirited vice-captain at the Ryder Cup — Sergio Garcia is rejuvenated and ready to win this week’s Australian Masters, if he plays to his potential. (Cue to insert easy joke.) Naturally, he’s more concerned about his game than Tiger’s or anyone else’s, but when asked, he calls Tiger one of the guys to beat, but doesn’t think he’s as fearsome as he was a year ago.
If anyone can relate to a winless drought and a fall from grace (though not of the same proportions), it’s Garcia, whose ranking plummeted from No. 2 in March 2009 to No. 70. His last victory was at the ’08 PLAYERS Championship. Via Australia’s The Age:
‘Maybe not as much,” Garcia said yesterday, when asked if defending champion Tiger Woods was as fearsome a foe as he was a year ago, when No. 1 ranking and reputation were both intact.
”I think you can never count out a guy like Tiger, one of the greatest players we’ve ever had in the game,” Garcia said. ”He definitely will be a man to beat and to watch, and hopefully we’ll be able to do it.
Garcia isn’t exactly the first (nor will he be the last) to say that Tiger has lost his aura. At the PGA Championship in August, ’10 US Open champion Graeme McDowell said, “Guys are not scared anymore.” Paul Casey echoed these sentiments, but chose his words carefully, saying, “It’s different, not a feeling we’ve had in a while.”
And of course, who can forget Rory McIlroy’s controversial (yet truthful) comments after Tiger shot 18-over at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational?
But back in December 2009, European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie was the first to publicly declare (by my count) that Tiger had lost his aura of invincibility. “He is suddenly, I hate to say, more normal now,’ said Monty. “‘There is a mystique which has been lost and let’s hope that golf isn’t damaged by that, and it shouldn’t be. There was an aura, and that wall if you like has been split slightly, so there are cracks and I feel that it gives us more opportunity of winning these big events now.”