by Jim SLATER Sergio Garcia, who captured his greatest victory in 20 years of major golf Sunday by winning the Masters, said he felt the presence of the late Seve Ballesteros helping pull him through.
“I’m sure he helped a little bit with some of those shots or some of those putts,” Garcia said.
The 37-year-old Spaniard defeated England’s Justin Rose, the reigning Olympic champion, with a birdie on the first playoff hole at Augusta National after failing in his first 73 tries at a major triumph.
“It has been an amazing week and I’m going to enjoy it for the rest of my life,” said Garcia.
Ballesteros, who died in 2011 at age 54 of brain cancer, and Jose Maria Olazabal each won the Masters champion green jacket twice and were the event’s only Spanish champions until Garcia’s breakthrough.
Garcia won on what would have been the 60th birthday of Ballesteros, a date seemingly destined for great things from him.
“It definitely popped in my mind a few times, there’s no doubt about it, obviously today a couple of times here and there,” Garcia said.
Garcia, set to jump from 11th to seventh in the world rankings, had been treated to supportive notes all week from friends and family, including fiancee Angela Akins and Olazabal.
“All those things helped a lot,” Garcia said. “Obviously Jose Maria’s helped a lot. He and Seve were my idols since I was very little. He mentioned, ‘You know what you have to do,’ and ‘Believe in yourself.'”
Olazabal also told Garcia that “I’m not sharing my (Champions room) locker until I get to do it with you. He’s a great man. To be able to join him as Masters champions from Spain, it’s unreal.”
Garcia said he was helped by adopting a more accepting attitude about the unfortunate breaks Augusta National can inflict, pondering it even as he celebrated after his winning playoff birdie putt on the 18th green.
“A lot of things were going through my mind, my people, my moments that didn’t go the way I wanted,” Garcia said. “Some of the moments at Augusta I didn’t enjoy as much and how stupid I really was to fight something you can’t and how I was able to accept things and do things better than I ever had.”
– ‘Lot of great years in me’ -More than his shotmaking, Garcia said, it was a change in attitude and determination he could win despite setbacks, like bogeys at 10 and 11 to fall two shots back, that brought him the greatest pride.
“I knew what I was capable of doing and I believed I could do it,” Garcia said. “Even after the two bogeys, I knew I could still do it. There were some holes I could go after. I knew I would probably have my chances.
“In the past I would have started going to my caddie, ‘oh it doesn’t go through.’ Now I’m like, ‘If that’s what’s supposed to happen let it happen,’ and let’s see if we can put on a hell of a finish.”
And now that he has started winning majors, Garcia has some confidence he could open the floodgates on claiming a few more.
“The positive thing for me is I feel like I have so much room for improvement,” he said.
“I’m here with so much just started. I’m 37, not 22, but I still feel like I have a lot of great years in me. And I’m excited for those.” DM
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