Sergio Garcia back where he belongs on centre stage
BY Bruce Young | Southern Africa Tour | 2003 Nedbank Golf Challenge | Wrap | 01 Dec 2003
That Sergio Garcia is back as a winner in world golf is not only a great sign for him but a very positive sign for world golf also.
Like his fellow countrymen Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal before him, the 23-year-old is blessed with an instinctive quality in his game but an appeal and charisma that deserves a place on centre stage.
His decision to make the changes that would offer greater consistency are now beginning to yield results after a lot of hard work. His main concern in making the swing changes was that he was looking to get the club on plane at the top of the swing and in order to do that he needed a takeaway that was more inside than it had been.
“It’s a great feeling to do this especially after a year in which I’ve struggled to get my swing right and it looks like I’ve got it right,” said Garcia in a post round interview.
It has been a struggle alright, especially by his standards, with a year that saw him finish 95th on the USPGA Tour money list in twenty starts and 49th on the European Tour money list. Of course he wasn’t exactly starving but by the standards he has set in his first few years as a professional, 2003 had been an ordinary year at best. With this year of change now safely behind him however, it would seem that a lucrative 2004 awaits.
Garcia turned professional two weeks after the Masters in 1999 and almost immediately had impact winning the Murphy’s Irish Open just two months later. His performance in difficult conditions at the Open at Carnoustie just a few weeks later would see a question mark raised about the nature of his game when he fired rounds of 83 and 89 to miss the cut by a long way. He would soon set the doubters back on their heels just a few weeks later with an amazing first season performance to run second to Tiger Woods at the USPGA and it was perhaps that performance, more than any other, that stamped his mark and made the golfing public realise that Garcia was truly the “real deal”. He has since gone on to win three times in the US, once in Korea and three more times on the European Tour. Following a year of consolidation and repair it seems that there will be a lot more to come.
Garcia led into the last round at Sun City but when he shanked his approach to the par four, first it appeared that the vulnerability of swing changes under pressure might rear its ugly head. That he was able to bounce back with birdies at the third and fourth tells a story about the man’s confidence and self belief and highlights a growing maturity in this, at times, volatile golfer.
When he reached the turn today however, he had been caught and passed by Goosen and the questions were about to be asked as to whether the swing changes were well and truly in place.
It was not Garcia however who would succumb, but rather Goosen whose bogey at the par five 14th saw Garcia draw level again and they then parred in before Garcia would take the title at the par 3 16th the hole, the first of the playoff and the very same hole on which he won his previous Nedbank Challenge in 2001, also in a playoff.
Nobody really threatened the leading pair throughout the last day although when Darren Clarke got to six under through ten today he went within two shots of the lead. His charge would come to an end soon after and Vijay Singh would move ahead of him to take outright third.
Adam Scott was the leading Australian finishing in a tie for 7th, Stuart Appleby 9th, with Robert Allenby and Stephen Leaney 14th.