To win the Masters…
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JILL PAINTER ON GOLF: Sergio Garcia must Master his emotions
By Jill Painter, Columnist
Posted: 04/11/2013 11:51:41 PM PDT
Updated: 04/11/2013 11:55:16 PM PDT
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Sergio Garcia needs to channel his inner teenager, the one who famously skipped down the fairway at Medinah Country Club all those years ago, in order to win the Masters.
Sadly, he won’t let himself get that geeked up over a golf tournament anymore.
At 33, Garcia is so far removed from that joyous place of unbridled enthusiasm and never-ending smiles he seems like a different person.
He’s older and wiser and more serious and even a bit defensive when talking about Augusta National. He just hasn’t played well here. He and Augusta aren’t exactly BFF’s. Augusta hasn’t treated him well, and he has no problem admitting this isn’t his favorite place.
Last year, he admitted he couldn’t win here.
And there’s that dubious distinction he’s still never won a major. Anywhere.
Garcia is a surprising Masters co-leader after firing an impressive first-round 6-under 66 – tied for his career best here – on Thursday. He had six birdies and no bogeys for the first time around here in 11 years.
He was asked about his lower expectations and responded: “Lower expectation, maybe that’s what you say. Every time I tee off in a tournament, my goal is to play the best I can and have a chance at winning.
“It doesn’t change this week.”
The last time Garcia shot 66 was in the final round in 2004, but he wasn’t in contention then.
He’s in contention now and will be battling the demons that have plagued him in his 15 appearances
here. Garcia has just two top-10 finishes (fourth place in 2004 was his best) and has missed the cut four times.
Would the old Garcia, who finished second to Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship at Medinah in 1999, please stand up?
“I’m not saying I wasn’t realistic when I was 19,” Garcia said. “But obviously as you get older, you mature a little bit more.
“I’m sure it happened to you, too.”
After Garcia was done with his news conference, he ran into Dustin Johnson and the two friends shared a laugh. It was like looking in a mirror, except for the height differential.
Both are sponsored by Taylor Made, and both were wearing the same green shirts and black pants. Their outfits are pre-scripted by the company. If we could pre-script Garcia’s game plan for the next three rounds, they would include hopping and air kicks, no matter the results.
Johnson remembers those circumstances.
“One of the shots I remember is maybe the PGA where he hit from behind the tree,” Johnson said. “That’s one that sticks out in my head.”
Garcia pulled off a great shot, and couldn’t hide his pleasure in doing so. That’s everyone’s early memory of Garcia, and then there are his surly comments and attitude over the year that got worse when he became known as the best player to never win a major.
Last year, he shockingly told Spanish reporters at the Masters: “I’m not good enough … I don’t have the thing I need to have. In 13 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.”
Those words haunt him now, especially from where his name is perched atop the leaderboard.
“Those were my words,” Garcia said. “But no, I think that at the end of the day, we go through those moments, tough moments and frustrated moments and I know that was one of them.
“I obviously didn’t say it the right way because it was one of those frustrating moments.”
He said it in his native tongue. It was honest. That’s how he felt. He’d been beaten up here so many times, it’s just tough he said it out loud for the world to hear. Now, in his own words, he’s played some of his best golf here ever and must convince himself he has the stuff to play three more rounds in similar fashion.
“What I’m going to try to take to the pillow (at night) is the first 10 holes,” Garcia said. “I think it’s, without a doubt, the best 10 holes I’ve played at the Masters.
“Even though scoring-wise maybe it wasn’t, but the way I hit the ball and amount of birdie chances I gave myself, it meant a lot.”
And now, he must eat those words and pretend he had his fingers crossed behind his back.
He has to remember he can play for first. The kid in him never would doubt that.
We still remember that lovable Garcia, but he has long forgotten.
Maybe when he’s thinking about those 10 holes in his dreams, he’ll remember that joy he had for the game.
It would serve him well at the Masters.