The kid turns 40 years old today.
How can that be?
Sergio Garcia will forever be “El Nino” to anyone who saw him as that brash but colorful 19-year-old trying to steal the closing moments and the trophy from Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship at Medinah all those years ago. The kid’s birdie at the 13th that Sunday, his defiant glare back at Woods on the tee box, was terrific theater. So was his giddy scissors kick racing up the 16th fairway, to see where his clever escape from behind a tree was going to end up on a day he ultimately couldn’t wrestle away from Woods.
Garcia may be the youngest 40-year-old in sports today.
If you like watching him, you still see the boyish, playful nature, the mischievous exuberance you always find a way to forgive when it erupts in untamed emotion. He’s like the maddening but ultimately loveable rebel in almost every family. Somehow, he figures out how to make you smile even when you’re shaking your head.
If you’re not a fan, it’s different. You’re probably still wondering when he’s going to grow up.
Garcia’s tempestuous meltdown in the bunker and on the greens in Saudi Arabia just last year reminded you of so many other tantrums over the years.
Emotionally, Garcia is such an open book on golf’s public stages. We’ve seen the best and worst of him through the years, with struggles great and small adding to the richness of the drama we got to see play out in the game’s biggest events. For the longest time, he seemed destined to be remembered as an epically tortured character in major championships. He seemed fated to be remembered as golf’s version of Sisyphus, the king who was punished by the Greek gods, compelled for eternity to roll a boulder up a hill, only to endure it always rolling back on him before he reached the top.
Garcia, however, got his rock to the mountaintop in one of the great upsets in golf history.
He didn’t just win the Masters in 2017, finally claiming his elusive first major. He won the hearts and minds of American golf fans who so enthusiastically rallied behind him. That was the monumental upset.
The guy American fans seemed to love to hate was transformed into the guy American fans couldn’t help loving in his march to the green jacket at Augusta National.
“I am an emotional player,” Garcia once said. “While I believe that’s one of my biggest strengths, it’s also one of my biggest flaws.”
Garcia may not always get it right in his career, but there’s an earnestness that has made his fans believe he really wants to get it right, and that he’ll keep working to get it right.
“Show everyone that not only am I a good golfer, I’m a good person,” Garcia said.
As a husband and father, Garcia has doubled down on that. His emotions in the game may also be like that boulder Sisyphus had to push uphill, but as he showed at the Masters, he knows how to endure until the worthiest of prizes are won.