SAN ANTONIO – Here’s how Sergio Garcia overcame the disappointment of his Masters defense that included an octuple-bogey 13 on the par-5 15th hole in the first round.
He changed the diapers – “a lot of nappies” he calls them, using the British term – of his daughter Azalea that wife Angela gave birth to a month ago. He hung out with his parents and with Angela’s parents, making a couple of trips to their 1,200-acre ranch near Austin. He practiced a bit with his dad, Victor. Last weekend, he joined Ben Crenshaw in a two-day member-member tournament at Austin Golf Club.
They won, of course.
“That was nice,” Garcia said.
He generally just kept busy, and now this week he’ll play in the Valero Texas Open, making his first start since 2010 at the TPC San Antonio Oaks Course. Even though he was a player-consultant to designer Greg Norman, there is lots to learn and recall. He played the back nine on Tuesday and quickly realized that patience will be a key in dealing with the stiff breezes that roll through the 7,435-yard layout.
What Garcia didn’t do was brood over how his defense of the Green Jacket will likely be remembered for the five balls he pumped into the water at the 15th in the first round.
“I think having a Green Jacket helps,” Garcia said.
Indeed it does. Shrugging off the 15-over score at Augusta National – the highest score ever recorded by a Masters champ in his title defense — can be difficult for any elite player. Garcia acknowledged Tuesday that had this happened earlier in his career, he might’ve struggled to put it in perspective and move beyond it.
But he’s a major champion, as well as a husband and father. There is no time to dwell on past negatives. He’s busy dealing with the present and planning for the future of his family.
“It’s one of those things that happens, and it’s happened to me before and it probably will happen again in the future,” Garcia said. “That’s the nature of golf. There at Augusta it can happen. So it’s what it is. …
“You just deal with it the best way possible. Obviously I was trying to hit the right shots throughout the process and unfortunately the result didn’t want to come out the way maybe it should have, but it’s one of those things.”
Had the 6-iron he hit with his approach climbed up the hill, he might have been staring at an eagle opportunity. Instead, it rolled back into the water, and “those things” unraveled from there. His 13 was the highest score ever recorded on that hole and tied for the highest on any hole at Augusta National.
Tough to put that into perspective, especially when you don’t think there was a bad shot in the mix. But Garcia, who became the 11th defending Masters champ to miss the cut, has found the perspective.
“As soon as we finished Friday afternoon, you know, it was pretty much forgotten and the week was over,” Garcia said. “That’s what it is. I think at the end of the day you’ve got to realize that sometimes it happens, sometimes it goes the wrong way, and without doing much wrong, it can happen. But you learn from it and you move forward and try to be better.”
Garcia will certainly try to be better at TPC San Antonio than his first visit in 2010, when he tied for 45th while shooting 1 under. The tournament was held in May that year, but when it was moved up a month to April starting in 2011, Garcia was unable to keep it on his playing schedule due to travel conflicts with the Spanish Open in his native homeland. Garcia skipped last week’s event won by Jon Rahm.
His adopted homeland now is Texas, since it’s Angela’s home state. It’s also a state in which Garcia has enjoyed three of his 10 career PGA TOUR wins – two in Dallas, one in Fort Worth.
Garcia said it’s no coincidence that he’s done well in Texas.
“I think I’ve always enjoyed playing in the wind,” he said. “It’s usually windy here in Texas, so I’ve always felt quite comfortable in this state. I’ve been fortunate to do fairly well throughout my career in Texas.”
“I guess now I feel like even more of a Texan than I felt even before. It’s a good state.”
Consider Garcia to be in a good mental state, too. Dealing with the mess at Augusta National is one thing. Dealing with the mess of a month-old child? That’ll quickly bring anybody back to reality.