Forget his form – Sergio is a must for the Ryder Cup
After the endless questions, year after year after year, of when Sergio Garcia might win a major, there is a chance that he might never play a Ryder Cup having finally won one.
This all seemed inconceivable last year, having captured The Masters at his 74th major attempt, and the general feeling was that now that one bus had arrived we could soon expect another.
Except it hasn’t. His last five majors have all finished by Friday night, his Augusta defence never got beyond the 15th hole on Thursday where he tied the record for most strokes on any hole in Masters history. Four wedge shots followed his second into the creek and he trudged to the 16th tee with a 13 on the card.
Twelve months previously he had hit the pin with his pumped-up 8-iron to make a crucial eagle.
“I don’t know, it’s the first time in my career where I make a 13 without missing a shot. Simple as that.”
Two months previously he had thankfully named his new-born daughter after the 13th hole, Azalea.
People talked about the change in equipment, from Callaway after 15 years with TaylorMade, maybe he wasn’t used to how much the new ball would spin.
People will talk about his inability to make it through to the FedEx Cup Play-offs.
People will always talk about his putting and the problems that this brings, something that is backed up by the stats where he sits 164th for Strokes Gained with the flat stick.
The kid that would hole everything as an amateur and optimistic and world-beating young pro has been reduced to ‘streaky’ at best.
Then again the game will always take something from you. Garcia’s is one of the first names to be trotted out when we talk about ball strikers, he will be one of a handful of players whose irons are said to sound a little louder, a little different. Garcia, for want of a better word, is the ultimate flusher.
Better still he’s a match player. Ever since he became the youngest player to play in the Ryder Cup, bouncing around alongside Jesper Parnevik in 1999, a record that still stands, he has consistently lit up the competition.
Fifteen points were contributed in his first four matches and his overall stats stand up to pretty much any of his peers.
Through 37 matches his win percentage stands at 0.61, which sits ahead of Graeme McDowell (0.60), Rory McIlroy (0.58), Paul Casey (0.56) or Lee Westwood (0.52).
Only the likes of Ryder Cup demigods Ian Poulter (0.72), Colin Montgomerie (0.65) and Justin Rose (0.63) can point to better records.
But what about the putting? Well here are a couple of positives. Let’s look back to his last Ryder Cup match in 2016 where all the stats pointed to similar blemishes.
Playing Phil Mickelson the pair made 19 birdies between them, had a better-ball 58, Garcia didn’t drop a shot in a 63 but the scorebook will ‘only’ show up a half.
— PGA.COM (@PGAcom) October 2, 2016
“I’ve been reminded that I haven’t won a major probably 300 times this week, but I love these moments. I love being in Ryder Cups. I love playing for my team-mates. I love playing for Europe,” said Garcia afterwards.
Before that there was the fireworks with McIlroy at Gleneagles, at Medinah he partnered Luke Donald to that all-important fourball win over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker which was then quickly followed by The Poulter Show.
The day after he took down Jim Furyk to put Europe ahead, by 13 to 12, for the first time.
And these, relatively speaking, were the Ryder Cup dark days of his career.
For years we’ve watched Montgomerie and Westwood hole everything over the three days before repeating, again and again, how they would love to putt like they did in a Ryder Cup to every other week of the year.
It’s stating the bleeding obvious but it’s like comparing apples to oranges. Even as risible amateurs we all know the difference between putting in a medal to the club knockout. For two days you also have a partner’s ball to help free you up even further, the months of dribbling putts soon become a distant memory.
Why would you want to leave out a European player who won The Masters less than 18 months ago?
Why would you want to leave out a player who is still the World No. 25?
Why would you want to leave out a player who finished inside the top 10 at Le Golf National just seven weeks ago which included a third-round 64?
Why on earth would you want to leave out a player who boasts a foursomes record of 9-3-3?
As things stand five of the eight players in the guaranteed spots have never hit a ball in a Ryder Cup before. It’s a pretty weak argument to say having a Jon Rahm or Tommy Fleetwood out there is any sort of disability but, with four captain’s picks, you really would like to think that Thomas Bjorn will find room for Garcia.
Two years ago he was needed for all five matches, this time around with the strength in depth and hopefully home advantage he might be used a bit more sparingly – a couple of foursomes maybe before including him in the engine room for the singles?
And who knows, if he were to win all three, then he would pip Sir Nick Faldo as Europe’s overall leading points scorer.