Sergio Garcia is certainly having a year to remember! 2017 continues to be the year of Sergio, where he just keeps winning, and after all those years of bad bounces and “ghosts,” the golf gods are finally trying to level things out.
In his first start following his Masters victory last month, Garcia aced the iconic par-3 17th in the first round of The Players Championship, the PGA Tour’s flagship event. It marked only the eighth hole-in-one in tournament history. For Garcia, it was the 12th ace of his life — he’s made five in competition and seven in practice.
“It was a great yardage, obviously,” said Garcia, following the round. “The wind was a little bit into off the left, 123 yards. It was a solid 52-degree (wedge) for me. I mean, I hit a good shot, but it was three yards past the pin. It could have gone there, it could have gone three yards past. I don’t know, it can do anything. It was nice to see it bounce and kind of spin back into the hole.”
That’s an understatement!
Sergio has experienced just about every emotion on the 17th at Sawgrass. He’s won on that hole. He’s lost the tournament, as well. And now, he’s aced it — he’s conquered the par-3 known for its island green, where so many players, including himself, have experienced so much joy and an equal dose of heartache.
Garcia shot one-over 73 (T66), but walked off the course feeling much better than his score reflected. He admitted to feeling nervous and having trouble focusing early in the round. Look no further than his card for proof: He was four-over through six holes.
“The feeling was great,” said Sergio, when asked to react to being introduced on the first tee as the ‘Masters Champion.’ “I was a little bit nervous early on. I think I wasn’t quite in the tournament because of everything that’s been going on with — obviously after the Masters win and media and people congratulating you left, right and center.
“I felt like I was a little bit up in the clouds, and when I woke up, I was 4-over after 6. That didn’t help, but then I started hitting better shots, started hitting better putts, and at least we were able to salvage a round there at the end that, like I said, we have a good day tomorrow, we still have a solid chance going into the weekend.”
As Sergio’s scrum in the flash area went on — maybe 20 yards from the autograph area — a large group of kids had started chanting, “SERGIO!” Finally, when it had become overwhelmingly loud, he smiled and said, “Can you guys let me out of here?” He walked over and started signing to the delight of his young fans. (It’s all about the kids!)
I smiled and smirked a little, thinking to myself, hard to believe the reception he received here in 2013 when fans cheered after he dunked a few in the water to lose his shot at winning the title against his nemesis Tiger Woods. That was quite an interesting year, wouldn’t you say? There was a ton of drama at The Players and throughout 2013 with regards to Tiger’s multiple run-in with rules issues, but the Tiger-Sergio feud reached its peak after the events that unfolded at TPC Sawgrass.
Let’s rewind to four years ago. Quick recap: Sergio has never exactly been a fan favorite in the U.S. and was an easy target for drunk hecklers everywhere. He was endlessly taunted by the large galleries, especially when he drew Tiger Woods as his playing partner in the third round. He was greeted with boos by the fans. Things escalated and got ugly. I even dubbed their ugly feud, which was played out via the media mainly, as “The Real Housewives of the PGA Tour.” Sergio was America’s favorite villain — as I theorized at the Masters, he was a foil for Tiger.
I imagine the reaction I would have received had I told you this same week in 2013 that four years later, Donald Trump would be President and Sergio Garcia would win the Masters. I would expect a weird look and then laughing so hard that your stomach hurt.
And then, I would tell you that in Sergio’s first start since his heartwarming and incredible victory at Augusta National for his first major title, the once-antagonistic crowds now greeted him as their new darling, fan favorite. he crowd erupted in cheers on the 17th because he buried a hole-in-one on the iconic par-3 with an island green — not because he dunked not one, not two, but three balls into the water, as he did in the final round to cost him a chance to win the tournament after pulling even against Tiger with two holes to play.
You would’ve been on the ground rolling with laughter or suggesting that I should see a doctor because clearly I was delusional and talking crazy.
But, here we are.
— Michael Shamburger (@mshamburger1) May 11, 2017
Per tradition (or expectation), the Tour… I mean, Sergio… requested that alcohol from two big alcohol sponsors of the tournament Michelob Ultra and Greygoose (vodka) be sent to the media center. At this point, there have been so many aces in the past two years on Tour that I have an album on my phone that just shows pictures of the coolers filled with alcohol. The Greygoose was a nice touch because I was going to say, it’s become a bit old and it’s going to start taking more than cheap beer to buy all that free PR on social media from the press! Totally joking, of course. But… still… how about some Dom Perignon? Just sayin’.