JACKSON, Miss. – All week the focus was on his eyes.
Every time Sergio Garcia stroked a putt, the cameras showed a battle-scarred 40-year-old who had missed so many over his career he’d seen enough. Perhaps, he reasoned, the seeing itself was the problem. Why watch? There was no upside. He led his lids fall, trusted the stroke, and when the last putt fell, a kick-in birdie on 18 to beat Peter Malnati by one, those eyes filled with tears.
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It was his first victory on TOUR since the 2017 Masters, and the first since he became a father, first to 2-year-old Azalea and then to 6-month-old Enzo. More than his putting woes, or his so-called slump – he won on the European Tour just over a year ago – he thought of family.
He especially thought of the two uncles he lost to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“My father has a lot of family in Madrid,” Garcia said. “He’s one of nine siblings, and unfortunately we lost two of his brothers because of COVID, one at the beginning, Uncle Paco, and one just last Saturday actually – not yesterday but the Saturday before, Uncle Angel.
“You know, it’s sad,” he continued. “It’s sad. And I know that a lot of families have lost a lot more people, but you never want to lose anyone like that, and I wanted to win this for them.”
Sometimes golf is hard just because it’s hard. And sometimes life just gets in the way.
Garcia had never played the Sanderson Farms, and it was hard to know what to make of him, especially the eyes-wide-shut putting. He was a 10-time TOUR winner, but he hadn’t won since the 2017 Masters. He’d missed three of his previous four cuts on TOUR, had fallen out of the world top 50, and was coming off a season in which he recorded just one top-25 finish.
To put that in perspective, he had never recorded fewer than four top-25s in 21 previous TOUR seasons, and missed the Playoffs for just the second time in the FedExCup era.
Two shots stood out Sunday: His 5-wood second shot that trundled up to within four feet of the pin for eagle, and his 8-iron approach on 18, which set up a 30-inch birdie. The ball-striking that has defined his career took center stage at Country Club of Jackson, as Garcia was first in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, and driving distance.
Although he was only 28th in Strokes Gained: Putting, he was in positive numbers all four days.
His unusual putting, which he said he’s been doing on and off for the last three-plus years, is working.
Source: PGA tour