Sergio Garcia has a quarter of a century of Open Championships under his belt. He explains to Mark Townsend how a change in attitude finally helped him make his major breakthrough
Incredibly this will be Sergio Garcia’s 25th start at the Open Championship.
If things had gone just a fraction of an inch differently at Carnoustie in 2007 – Garcia shaved the edge of the hole on three of the play-off holes, after previously lipping out at the 72nd hole, and hit the pin on the other – then it could have saved him answering the same old question for the next nine years.
But, as he explains when we sit down at an Adidas event at Wentworth, he had his own way of dealing with the pressure.
“I would always be asked about being the best player never to win a major but, as it went on, I would look at it a different way,” the 39-year-old explains. “If they were considering me the best player then I was doing something really good for the first bit and we can try to change the second part. It’s always better to be the best player rather than nothing and also no major.”
Try as he might, there were 22 top 10s before he finally won the Masters. It seemed that Garcia would end up the way of the likes of Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood – is there still time? – and finish his career empty handed.
He would, often quite rightly, bemoan his bad luck as well as, often quite strangely, talk himself out of things. But, as he matured, Garcia changed his attitude to all the near misses.
“I would look at them in a negative and positive way but, as I grew older, I realised that the only thing you can do is give yourself the best chance of winning and sometimes it doesn’t happen,” he says. “You might make a mistake or sometimes someone beats you.
“Carnoustie in 2007 was the hardest one as I was a bit younger and I was so close and I felt like I had it right there. The week after in Spain I would be walking on the beach and thinking about it and feeling a little bit sad about it.
“But the more I thought about things I would think, yes I didn’t win but even when you lose or finish second there are so many more positives than negatives at the end of a week. And there would be so many good things to get to that possibility of winning so why would you throw away such a positive week when you were second? That makes it easier to take rather than I missed that putt or whatever.”
There have been 10 top 10s in the game’s oldest major and, while his breakthrough came at Augusta two years ago, it remains his favourite major.
“The Open is always my favourite event of the year, I love playing links courses and I love everything about it. It’s funny because I always thought either US Open or Open were my best chances to win a major.
“I don’t want to look at not having won one as unfinished business, I think everything happens for a reason but I would love to win one before I stop playing. Being European you relate to it more, if it doesn’t happen that’s still fine as I have so many great memories.”
At last month’s US Open the 39-year-old arrested a slide of seven straight missed major cuts but there is actually quite a lot to like about his chances. Aside from his obvious links nous there has been a lot of good stuff on the PGA Tour with five top 10s in his 12 starts as well as also impressing in his own event in Spain in June.
“I’ve been working hard on my game and it’s coming around nicely. I had a good week at Valderrama and played really well, maybe I should have had a better chance of winning but the putts didn’t want to drop.”
He has a brief memory of playing Royal Portrush as an amateur but he can’t recall any of it.
“I’ve heard Portrush looks amazing. As a venue I love Carnoustie, it’s one of the best we play, and I love Muirfield where I won the Amateur. Those two are fantastic links courses.”