When he scissor-kicked his way to golf celebrity at age 19, challenging Tiger Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship, Sergio Garcia seemed like he was golf's next big thing. With exuberance, effervescence and a perfect nickname, El Nino embraced the possibility of superstardom.
Thirteen years later, however, Garcia is a dour presence, beaten down by self-doubt and unfulfilled potential. Even after winning the Wyndham Championship on Monday to end a four-year drought on the PGA Tour, there was little joy in his voice as he refused to admit that any burden had been lifted.
"I had two great wins last year on the European Tour," Garcia told reporters. "It's nice winning anywhere. It doesn't matter if it's Japan, South Africa, Europe or whatever it is, the U.S."
On the back nine, Garcia made it academic with five birdies in a span of seven holes. His ball-striking was so pure that the combined length of his five birdie putts was 17.2 feet.
"Yes, but I still had to make the putts," he said grimly.
Garcia should lighten up. He still has plenty of time to fulfill his promise. His career, amazingly, is on the same track as that of Phil Mickelson. At 32, he had 21 PGA Tour wins and no majors. At the same age, Garcia has 18 wins in Europe and America with no majors. Perhaps 2013 will be Garcia's major breakthrough, and he can gracefully morph back into the happy-go-lucky star that appealed to so many fans.
- Kevin Dunleavy