Last week, Victor Garcia predicted a winning score of 15-under par for the Castello Masters. He didn’t say who would reach that winning total on the course where he is the head professional, but you know he was hoping it would be his son, Sergio.
Instead, a 17-year-old named Matteo Manessero made history by becoming the youngest winner ever on the European Tour, finishing a shot off of Garcia’s prediction at 16 under for the week.
Earning honors as low amateur in the 2010 Masters Tournament, Manessero rose to prominence at last year’s British Amateur, beating Sam Hutsby in the Final to become the youngest winner in the event’s 115-year history.
A friend of mine who watched the two youngsters duel it out noted: “If these two are the future of the game then we’re in good hands. They play without delay, with terrific sportsmanship, and they’re bloody good!”
Students of the game might be crying déjà-vu, because the fellow could well have been speaking about the Final 11 years prior – the one where Sergio Garcia beat a Welshman named Craig Williams.
A year later when the 18-year-old Garcia won twice on the European Tour and challenged Woods in the PGA Championship, people were talking about the next Seve, perhaps even a rival for the prodigy from across the Atlantic.
Funny enough it’s the exact same chatter we’re hearing about Manessero today. This week’s headlines will be about Manessero, his victory and what might lie ahead. Garcia’s comeback will be all but forgotten.
Hard to believe the once-heralded Garcia would fall to the point of needing a comeback but that’s what happened to the now 30-year-old from Borriol. His desire for playing tournament golf fell to such a low this summer that after a missed cut at the PGA Championship he stepped away, returning with a fanfare at his hometown event last week.
Garcia was optimistic at the beginning of the week, coming back with a rededication to the game that has seen him starting to practice again, as well as set new goals.
“I want to win this week,” Garcia said, “and eventually become the No. 1 player in the world.”
Just few days later, though, Garcia walked off the 18th green looking dejected after double bogey on No. 17 put pay to his chances of playing the weekend in a tournament he won in 2008.
So what now? That was the question probably being batted around the Garcia dining table on Friday evening.
The pundits have their theories: It’s all about putting; it’s mental; it’s the product of a broken heart.
Garcia himself may not even know the answer, for that matter, so all there really is to do is look forward.
This week the tour moves to Spain’s most famous course, Valderamma, where Garcia is once again in the field, as is Manessero. The 17-year-old will likely play like he doesn’t have a care in the world, while Garcia will probably look burdened by similar talent.
Maybe the tournament’s organizers will pair them together. Maybe Garcia’s putter will continue to be as cold as the cervezas they serve in the happening bars of nearby Puerto Banus. Maybe Garcia will snap into the sort of form Manessero showed the week before.
One thing’s for sure: For the Italian everything seems to be a dead cert. For Garcia, sadly, it’s all about maybes.