What's your game plan?
Sergio Garcia is relaxed. There’s a warm hello and kisses as he arrives for this interview. He’s spent the past hour chatting with journalists – both on the phone and in person in the lobby of a Frankfurt hotel – and he’s still smiling when he hits our set. The glow of winning his debut Green Jacket at the Masters continues to radiate from him.
And it’s no wonder. This moment has been nearly 20 years in the making.
Early in his career, Garcia was spoken of in the same breath as Tiger Woods and Justin Rose, but his failure to capture a major left a question mark over his mental strength.
But golf is not a quick game; four rounds played over 18 holes with players contending well into their 50s, it takes patience and focus: two things that improve with age and experience. Garcia is a testament to this consistent approach to success. If you keep putting yourself in a winning position, your time will come.
This is Sergio Garcia’s game plan.
You finished runner-up in majors on four previous occasions, what was different this time around?
It was quite simple. I said it many times before I won that I just needed to keep putting myself in that situation and wait until that day where I felt great and everything felt like it was clicking. What felt different was that mentally I was very calm. I was very confident. I was very committed to what I was doing. That was probably the biggest difference and believing the whole way, telling myself, “It’s your time. It’s going to happen. It’s your time”. I just really believed in that.
How have you developed this calmness under intense pressure?
I think it’s a combination of experience and the people around me helping me to believe in myself a bit more.
Having that belief really helped me. Even on 10, 11 and 13, when I had a couple of difficult moments and it looked like it might go the wrong way, I didn’t get bothered. I didn’t get angry. I didn’t get jumpy. I didn’t start thinking “I’m losing it”, or anything like that. I was like, “Okay, just keep going. There are still holes, there are still possibilities, and you can still do it”.
When you were younger, you sometimes doubted your ability and weren’t shy about showing your frustrations on and off the course.
Yes, [chuckles] I’m very emotional. Obviously, when I’m doing things well, you can see it; and when I’m doing things not so well. I think I control myself a little bit better now, but when I was younger, I would let it ride me a little bit. Mostly, I am very truthful, and I say what I feel.
For example, I think it was five years ago when I said that I wasn’t good enough. It’s the way I felt as I came off the course that day because I didn’t have a good day. I didn’t mean that the week after. When the tournament was over, my mind changed and I thought that I was good enough, but it’s what I felt at that time. I should not have said it, but that is what I felt.
Do you have a love/hate relationship with the game?
I think we all do. I think the game of golf is beautiful because of that. Sometimes you feel like you’re so in control and you can do whatever you think or whatever you want, and then all of a sudden, the next week, golf comes and smacks you in the face and says, “Hey, hold on”. Then you’re like, “What’s going on? I was placed so well last week and feeling so smooth and everything was going so well. All of a sudden, this week, for whatever reason, I can’t feel it. I’m trying to do the shot like this, and it’s not working out”.
I think that’s the beautiful thing about the game of golf – it gives you a lot, but at the same time, it humbles you very quickly. When you think that you have it totally under control, it gives you a reality check.
Has your Masters win reignited your passion for golf?
Not really, no. Fortunately for me my passion for golf has always been there. I think that’s probably one of the biggest reasons why my career has been so consistent. It’s obviously put a little bit more fire on it, but as I said before I won the Masters, I’ve been very fortunate with the career I’ve had so far. I felt like I was quite successful. I could have been more, yes; I could have been less, of course. But now, obviously, having a major, it’s taking it one step further. You’ve just got to keep enjoying it, keep having fun out there, keep working hard and try to take everything the way it comes.
What advice would you give to anyone who’s close to succeeding and then missing out at the final hurdle?
Well, it’s quite simple: just persevere, just never give up, keep fighting, keep believing in yourself. If you put yourself in that situation over and over, it means that you’re good enough, because if you never put yourself in that situation, then you can start doubting and saying, “I don’t even have a chance”. But if you keep getting chances, it means that you have something.