It was a startling declaration from any golfer, much less someone en route to his 20th career top-12 finish in a major championship.
“I’m not good enough. I don’t have the thing I need to have,” Sergio Garcia told Spanish reporters after a third-round 75 at Augusta National Golf Club dropped him to a tie for 19th in last year’s Masters after he had started the day one shot off the lead. “In 13 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place. … In any major.
“I’m not good enough,” he continued. “I had my chances and opportunities and I wasted them. I have no more options. I wasted my options. … Tell me something I can do.”
Frustration from a bad day? Certainly. Yet after finishing tied for 12th the next day, Garcia didn’t back down when the media pressed him on it and wondered whether his major surrender was somehow lost in translation.
“Do you think I lie when I talk?” he said. “Everything I say, I say it because I feel it. If I didn’t mean it, I couldn’t stand here and lie like a lot of the guys do. If I felt like I could win, I would do it.
“Unfortunately at the moment, unless I get really lucky in one of the weeks, I can’t really play much better than I played this week, and I’m
going to finish 13th or 15th.”
What did he think he was missing?
“Everything,” he said.
Garcia clearly isn’t missing “everything.” Still only 33 and ranked 17th in the world, Garcia has had a remarkable major history in 57 career starts. Since chasing after Tiger Woods as a rookie in the 1999 PGA Championship, the phenom once dubbed “El Niño” has been an ongoing tale of promise and heartbreak.
His leaping scissor-kick as he ran up the fairway after his memorable shot from behind a tree on the 70th hole of Medinah is the lasting image of that young promise that brought him to the brink of so many major championships (nine top-5 finishes) and earned him 23 official wins on the PGA, European and Asian tours.
But his youthful enthusiasm has been overshadowed more recently by darker thoughts. The frustration of such high expectations builds up thick layers of scar tissue.
“I think obviously there was some frustration in there after kind of playing my way out of the Masters on Saturday,” Garcia said a month after his Masters statement. “And then a little bit, I don’t know, you may call it reality. I’ve been out here for 13 years, played every major since I’ve been a pro other than the U.S. Open in ’99. So, you know, it’s just been one of those things when sometimes I have played, I have played myself out of it and sometimes I have gotten beaten. It just feels like it’s taken a long time, and you know … I don’t know.”
Emotions have always been a big part of Garcia’s game. It’s what makes him such a powerful Ryder Cup player. But his moods can also wear on his confidence and take the joy out of the game.
“There’s definitely moments where it is a grind,” he said. “Like everything in life, there’s moments where things seem to happen easily and there’s moments where things just don’t want to happen. I think it happens in all aspects of your life, not only in golf. I think that’s the beauty of this game. That’s why we love it so much. If it was easy, and then you would probably get tired of playing it.”
Garcia has emerged from a career slump and is playing some of his best golf since 2008, when he won the Players Championship. Back-to-back wins in Spain near the end of 2011 foreshadowed a solid 2012 season in which he snapped a four-year drought on the PGA Tour with a win in Greensboro and ended the year with a victory in Malaysia.
He started 2013 strong with a runner-up finish in Qatar, a tie for third at Doral and a tie for 13th at Riviera.
“Obviously, I feel quite good now, not great, but I’m starting to feel a little bit better, and hopefully I can ride that good momentum,” he said at Doral.
“When the Masters comes, I’ll try to figure that one out. … It’s obviously the first major of the year, we always don’t know what to expect, but hopefully my game will be on form there and I’ll be able to play well.”
Despite what he said last year, Garcia isn’t surrendering yet on the major stages.