Comment: Why Sergio Garcia needs to change his mindset

Golf Equipment

The Spaniard is amazingly talented but certainly lacks something, says our experienced columnist

There are a number of things that distinguish great champions from lesser sportsmen and the most obvious of those is immense talent.

The likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Mohamed Ali, Usain Bolt, Lionel Messi, Seve Ballesteros and Sergio Garcia were all blessed with such a gift but sometimes it is not quite enough to take a player all the way to the top and we were reminded of that fact when Garcia imploded over the closing holes at the recent Players Championship at Sawgrass.

Garcia has amassed over 20 victories during a fine career spanning almost two decades but watching him dump two balls into the water on the 17th and another on the 18th provided us with a stark reminder that talent alone is seldom enough to win at the very top level.

Over the last 30 years I have been fortunate enough to watch most of the world’s top golfers in action and few can compare with Garcia when it comes to his ability to hit a golf ball.

The Spaniard also possesses a deft touch around the greens but it does appear that something is missing from his armament and I would suggest this void can be traced to a fault in his own mindset.

Nicklaus claimed 18 Majors between 1962 and 1986, not just because he was a great ball striker, but also because he would let nothing interfere with his remorseless quest to win each championship he entered.

There were times when it seemed the Golden Bear was quite literally willing the ball into the hole and that is also an attribute which has been granted to the man who one day may usurp his crown as the greatest golfer ever.

There will be those who believe that Garcia has already inherited too much mental scar tissue ever to see himself as anything other than an inexorable victim of fate. It has taken an almost inhuman amount of focus and self-belief to enable Woods to win 14 Majors and claim 78 titles in his first 300 starts on the PGA Tour and I cannot help but believe both are attributes that Garcia lacks.

There will be those who claim poor putting is at the heart of the Spaniard’s problem but I would suggest that is merely a manifestation of a deeper malaise which surfaced when he accused Woods of deliberately trying to put him off when they played together during the third round at Sawgrass.

Garcia clearly believed that he was the victim in this incident and it might well have been a comfort for him to think that way because it helped him to hide from the mental frailty he is going to have to address if he is ever to fulfil his immense talent and join the elite group of Major champions.

I cannot help but feel that John Cook, one of Woods’ friends and regular practice partners, hit the nail on the head when he described what Garcia would have to do if he is ever to make it to the highest level in his profession.

“Until he accepts the fact he alone is the guy who can change things, not the golfing gods, then he’s going to end up every week saying the same thing – ‘I’m the victim, why me?’

“Sergio’s got to get over that and accept that as he’s a really good golfer he needs to win big championships,” Cook added.

“But, until he changes his whole persona and attitude, he’s not going to win the really big events.”

There will be those who believe that Garcia has already inherited too much mental scar tissue ever to see himself as anything other than an inexorable victim of fate but, if that is what he thinks, he would be well advised to examine the careers of both Tom Watson and our latest Major champion Adam Scott.

It is hard to believe now that Watson was frequently labelled as a choker before he won his first of eight Major titles in 1975 but that is exactly how he was perceived until he learned that it was not fate but his only fallibility that was holding him back.

Scott also endured more than his fair share of hard knocks in the Majors but, to his enormous credit, it did not damage his inner belief and he was finally rewarded when he claimed the Green Jacket in April.

It remains to be seen whether Garcia will ever grasp that elusive Major trophy but one thing is sure is that it will not happen until he learns to stop riling against what he perceives as “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and learns to concentrate on something he can control – namely himself.

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