In the just over six months that have passed since Sergio Garcia famously won the Masters, the Spaniard has had a lot going on. There was marriage to new wife, Angela. There is impending fatherhood to look forward to next March. And there has been much wearing of the iconic green jacket at functions around the globe. All have kept the 37-year-old busy off the course.
On the course things have been a little less exciting. A tie for 10th at the Tour Championship was Garcia’s best post-Augusta finish on the 2016-'17 PGA Tour. And T-2 behind Andres Romero at the BMW International Open in Germany last June has been his best effort on the European circuit. Not awful by any means, but it would be fair to say that finally breaking his long-standing major duck has hardly been the prelude to a string of further and immediate successes.
Until now anyway.
With a final-round four-under 67 on one of continental Europe’s most demanding layouts, Garcia picked up his 14th European Tour title (and sixth on home soil) the Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation. His 12-under 272 total was just good enough to beat Dutchman Joost Luiten by a single stroke, with no one else really close. Daniel Brooks was third, five shots behind the new champion, a fact that had little impact on the wider world but meant an awful lot to the little-known 30-year-old Englishman. The €125,200 he earned means he will keep his European Tour card for at least another 12 months.
As one might expect, Garcia was more than a little emotional at close of play. For him—days after being awarded honorary membership of both the European Tour and Valderrama—this was a week when the dream scenario became reality. It isn’t often a golfer gets to win an event in front of his compatriots, never mind one hosted by his own charitable foundation and over a layout he calls “my favorite ever.” That last bit is no surprise, of course. In 13 tournament appearances as a professional at Valderrama, the eight-time Ryder Cup player has only once been outside the top 10. Eight times he has posted a top-five finish. Remarkable.
“I want to dedicate this to my wife, Angela, and the baby coming in March,” said Garcia, who picked up a check for €333,330 that leaves him in second place on the Race to Dubai money list, still €789,665 behind leader Tommy Fleetwood with four events left to play. “It was amazing out there. The people were unbelievable. So many come out to support. It was a treat.
“Daniel played great, especially with everything he had on the line. So did Joost. He kept coming back and made it an amazing match. Even when I was three ahead early on the back nine I never really thought I had it won. He was playing so well. And you can never relax at Valderrama. You have to love this place. You have to stay patient. Bad breaks have to be dealt with. So I just tried to stay patient and make sure any bad moments didn’t affect me too much. And I made a couple of key putts coming in.”
Perhaps the most vital of those came on the par-5 17th. With Luiten—who had crucially three-putted the previous green to fall behind -- almost certain to make the birdie that would have seen the pair tied going to the 72nd tee, Garcia rolled in an incredibly fast, downhill left-to-right five-footer for his own 4 to maintain his one-shot edge. All in all, it was a lot like Augusta really.