Sergio Garcia, 37, is no longer the carefree “El Nino” who first arrived at the Masters as an amateur in 1999 and a few months later as a teenage professional dueled with Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship.
Since announcing his engagement to former Golf Channel reporter Angela Akins in January, however, Garcia’s career seems to have found a renewed vigor.
“I think that when things are going well off the golf course it’s much easier to feel comfortable on a golf course, because there’s no worries,” Garcia said after winning his first start of the year on the European Tour at Dubai. “There’s no worries outside and you can concentrate on what you’re doing out there on the course. So it definitely helps, I’m not going to lie. I’m excited about a lot of the things that are coming, not only my way, but also Angela’s way, and our families and stuff. So you know, we’re very excited about the future coming.”
That Garcia’s future might finally bring that elusive major championship along with the happiness he’s found off the course is a question the Spaniard is eager to answer. He’s come a long way from his frustration at the 2012 Masters when he said “I don’t have the thing I need to have” to win majors.
“It’s simple,” he said in January, where he won the same event that launched Danny Willett’s Masters-winning season last year. “When I get to Augusta, U.S. Open, the British Open, PGA, I just want to do the best I can. Just like I try any other week. So that’s not going to change.
“You know, we try to play as well as we can every single week, and I’m going to keep trying and give myself more shots, more chances at majors and, you know, see what happens.”
In nearly two decades as a professional, Garcia has won 30 times around the world including nine times on the PGA Tour. His Players Championship victory in 2008 remains his most prominent triumph along with a sterling record in eight Ryder Cups.
While his motivation has seemingly fluctuated with the ebb and flow of his personal life, he says he still has the desire to compete.
“I think I’m definitely more calm than I used to be, but my enthusiasm is still very strong,” he said. “I still get very geared up to play every week and do my best every week because it’s what I love doing. I love playing golf. I try to be as strong and as focused as I can to do my best every single week.
“The hunger is still there. I still want to keep achieving things. I still want to keep becoming a better golfer when it comes down to my career. I have other goals.
“Fortunately for me, I’m still in good shape. Physically I’m still doing well. I’ve been able to avoid injuries for pretty much my whole career, so that’s always a positive. I’m excited, like I said, to keep improving, keep giving myself chances at winning tournaments, winning majors, and then just give the best that I have got in me.”
In 73 major starts, Garcia has 22 top-10 finishes including four runner-up medals and two more thirds. Augusta National has often left him frustrated, though he has shown repeatedly he has the game to contend for a green jacket.
He returns to the Masters for the 19th consecutive year with perhaps the best weapon in his arsenal – contentment. It can’t hurt his chances that 2017 might prove to be Garcia’s year.
“I think that at the end of the day, you know, it’s another step in your life, and we’re very excited about it,” he said of his engagement. “We’ll see what golf brings us with that.”