Saturday 21 October 2017

Garcia's form suggests major breakthrough is finally on cards

Sergio Garcia celebrates with the trophy yesterday after his victory in the Dubai Desert Classic Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Sergio Garcia celebrates with the trophy yesterday after his victory in the Dubai Desert Classic Photo: AFP/Getty Images

James Corrigan

At the start of the year in which Sergio Garcia will finally lose his bachelor status, the Spaniard gave notice of his intent to ditch another tag as well.

If the 37-year-old can replicate the supreme form he showed here in winning the Desert Classic then he will no longer be known as "the best player never to win a major".

Garcia's fiancée, Angela Akins, was there to greet him behind the 18th green after his three-shot victory over Henrik Stenson, which returned him to the world's top 10.

It has long been said in golfing circles that this is a case of unlucky in love, unlucky in golf and that a happy Sergio is a dangerous Sergio.

Bogeyless

And he certainly lived up to the theory with a brilliant, bogeyless final-round 69 which capped off a tournament he led from wire to wire.

Garcia attempted to keep a lid on his expectations for the forthcoming major campaign but the exhilaration prompted by his 19-under display was obvious.

"When I get to Augusta, US Open, the Open, PGA, I just want to do the best I can - just like any other week," Garcia said. "But some weeks I'm really good like this week. I've been fortunate to have some really good ball-striking tournaments. And this definitely was one of them."

It was his first European Tour title in more than three years, although he did win on the PGA Tour in Texas last May.

Yet even that nine-month drought seemed absurd as he pulled clear and stayed there with minimum fuss, despite Open champion Stenson chasing hard with a 69.

One consolation for the Swede was that he will leapfrog Dustin Johnson into the world No 3 position. Yet he did not lay a glove on his Ryder Cup team-mate.

Garcia held a three-shot overnight advantage and increased it with a birdie on the first. The nearest Stenson ventured was within two after birdieing the 13th and 14th, but then came the definitive shot of the entire four days.

After Stenson had flown the 15th green, Garcia plonked a six-iron approach to two feet.

In matchplay it would have been the handshake, but in strokeplay the huge cheer had to suffice, with the €410,000 cheque and the kiss from Angela soon to follow.

Garcia has famously had a string of relationships which did not last the distance.

There was the former world No 1 tennis player Martina Hingis and most recently a German amateur golfer by the name of Katharina Boehm. But it was the break-up with Morgan Leigh-Norman in 2009 which truly punctured his heart.

Garcia had won the Players Championship - the biggest title of his career thus far - and risen to world No 2 when he was with Greg Norman's daughter, but when she broke it off, he spiralled into a tailspin.

"I felt I had to stop playing the game for a while," said Garcia who missed the 2010 Ryder Cup and fell out of the world's top 80.

That personal turmoil is now but a distant memory. He began dating Akins, the 31-year-old former Golf Channel reporter, last year and announced on social media at the start of last month they had engaged and will marry this year. Expect an upturn in his earnings.

"I've always been very open about it," Garcia said. "I'm not going to lie, but when things are going well off the course it's much easier to feel comfortable on it.

"I'm excited about a lot of the things that are coming, not only my way, but also Angela's way, and our families and stuff. So we're very excited about the future."

Graeme McDowell finished 11 shots behind Garcia after a 72 that left him eight-under par, while Paul Duune finished two-under after shooting 69.

Irish Independent

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