Sergio Garcia (born January 9, 1980), nicknamed El Nino, is a Spanish professional golfer who plays on both the United States PGA Tour and the European Tour. He has spent much of his career in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings (over 200 weeks between 2000 and 2007). He has yet to win a professional major championship, having most recently lost the 2007 Open Championship in a playoff.
Garcia began playing golf at the age of three, taught by his father, Vitor. He was a star player as a junior, winning his club championship at age twelve. Four years later, he set a record as the youngest player to make the cut at a European Tour event, the 1995 Turespana Open Mediterranea. Also in 1995, he became the youngest player to win the European Amateur. In 1998, he won the British Amateur.
Garcia turned professional in 1999 after shooting the lowest amateur score in the 1999 Masters Tournament. He first achieved prominence with a duel against Tiger Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship, where he eventually finished second. Late in the final round, Garcia hit his most famed shot: with his ball up against a tree trunk and the green hidden from view, he swung hard with his eyes shut and hit a low curving fade that ran up onto the green.
He won his first PGA Tour tournament at the 2001 MasterCard Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas and won again at the Buick Classic the same year. In 2002, he won the Mercedes Championships and in 2004, Garcia won the EDS Byron Nelson Championship and the Buick Classic for the second time. His sixth PGA Tour victory came at the 2005 Booz Allen Classic. He also plays a limited schedule on the European Tour, where he has won six times.
Garcia was a member of the European Ryder Cup team in 1999, 2002, 2004, and 2006, and holds an impressive career record at the Ryder Cup of 14-3-3. As three of his appearances have resulted in overall victories, Garcia’s input in the team has proved invaluable. He had risen into the top five of the Official World Golf Rankings, but after an inconsistent 2006 season, he dropped out of the top 10.
In the 2006 Ryder Cup, at the K Club in Ireland, Garcia won both his fourball and foursome matches (with Jose Maria Olazabal and Luke Donald, respectively) on day one, beating David Toms and Brett Wetterich in the fourballs and Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk in the foursomes. On day two he paired up with Olazabal again, who won both their matches against Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco in both the foursomes and fourballs. Going into the final day in the singles, Garcia was heavily tipped to be the first person to win all their matches in one Ryder Cup, however Stewart Cink beat him 4 and 3. Europe won the cup again by 18½ points to the United States’ 9½ points.
After missing the cut of the first two major championships in 2007, Garcia found success at The Open Championship – his favorite of the four majors – at Carnoustie Golf Links. He held the lead after each one of the first three rounds and carried a 3-shot lead over Steve Stricker and a 6-shot lead over the rest of the field into the start of the fourth day.
At an early stage of the last round he had extended the lead to four shots, but bogeys at the 5th, the 7th, and the 8th holes brought him back to the field.
On the final challenging hole he needed a par to win, but failed to get up and down from the greenside bunker. The last putt on the 18th hole on Sunday would have given him his first professional major. He missed it by a fraction and faced a playoff with Padraig Harrington that he eventually lost by one stroke.
On May 11, 2008, Garcia won The Players Championship on the PGA Tour in a playoff against Paul Goydos. On the first playoff hole, the 17th, Goydos hit a pitching wedge that ballooned and fell inches short of the green and into the water, while Garcia played a pitching wedge to within four feet of the hole. Goydos made double bogey while Garcia made par for the win.
A bachelor, he drives a Ferrari 360 Modena “quickly” and a Jaguar XJR. Ex-girlfriends include former world number-one tennis player Martina Hingis, who helped him cope with the emotional side of the game, and Greg Norman’s daughter, Morgan-Leigh Norman, a graduate of Boston College.
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