AUGUSTA, Ga. — Victor Garcia sits in the grill room at Augusta National, staring at a pair of 24-inch TVs in the far corners. On them, his son Sergio is walking up the 18th fairway, in a sudden-death playoff with Justin Rose.
On the line, the Masters championship and a green jacket. But really, it’s a lot more than that for Sergio, Victor and the eight or so family and friends sitting with him at the table.
For so long – 18 years, actually – Sergio Garcia has been one of the best golfers in the world, and for so long he’s never been able to win on any of the sport’s four biggest stages. His record in majors, 0-for-73, provides a potpourri of heartbreak and disappointment and anger and frustration and any other emotion that makes someone just want to spit in the bottom of a golf hole, which Garcia once did.
His friends and family had seen it all before. Seen the unfortunate shot off the pin during a playoff at the 2007 British Open that cost him the Claret Jug. Seen him blow a lead with just three holes to play at the 2008 PGA Championship. Seen him finish second four times in majors.
They didn’t want to see it again, for themselves or for Sergio.
They’d watched him open a 3-stroke lead on the front nine Sunday, only to have it vanish in less than an hour. They’d seen him battle back from a surefire bogey at 13, when he drove the ball into the woods, only to salvage par. They went delirious at 15 when he nailed the pin with his second, then drained the eagle putt to draw square with Rose. And they sat on pins and needles when he lined up a birdie putt on 18, five feet for the win, and missed.
Now the 18th again, a second chance for Sergio. The gallery around the green stands 50 deep, making it impossible to see anything, so the Garcia gang retreats inside the grill room, resigned to watching what could be Sergio’s greatest moment on a pair of 24-inch TVs.
They sit at a table in the back of the room, conveniently next to the bar, but far enough away from the TVs that some in the group need binoculars to make out the action on the screens. Victor sits to the side, his back to the 18th green, barely able to watch.
He’d taught his son to play the game at the age of 3, caddied for him their first time here 18 years ago, coached him throughout his career. And now his son is out there on the 18th fairway of Augusta National, with a chance to win the Masters.
Rose, who’d driven into the pine straw on the right, goes first, punching out, unable to reach the green in two.
Victor leans forward in his chair, clutching hands with family and friends – first Jose Andres, Sergio’s friend and chef, then Luis Figo, the great soccer player, then Consuelo, Sergio’s mother. A simple iron here from Sergio, a shot he’s hit a million times, and, well …
The grill room, full of mostly green-jacketed members, is library silent as Sergio lines up his shot, swings and sends the ball sailing toward the 18th green. It lands in the middle, safe, and now the Garcia gang is doing everything they can do not to erupt.
It’s not over yet, especially not after Rose sticks his approach to nine feet.
The Garcia gang grips a little tighter. If Rose makes the putt, Sergio would need to make his to win. Rose lines up, strokes the putt, Victor leans in and … it slides by the hole.
Sergio still needs to hole out, but already the tears are flowing down Victor Garcia’s face. He can’t hold it in. He knows his son can get down in two, but Sergio only needs one. He drains his birdie putt and the Garcia gang roars.
The green jackets, a normally staid group, let it go.
“Happy birthday, Seve!” yells Jose Andres, a reference to the late, great Spaniard who would have been 60 on Sunday.
Victor is mobbed, tears still flowing. He wants to get outside, to his son. He makes a beeline for the door.
“Maximo!” he says. “Increíble!”
“You can’t ask for anything more!” Andres translates.
“Sergio won this for Seve,” Victor continues. “It’s incredible. I don’t have words right now.”
Every year Augusta National obtains a special club that propelled the Masters champion to victory. There’s the Tiger Woods driver from 1997. The Arnold Palmer 1-iron from 1958. The Ben Hogan 4-wood from 1951.
Next year, there likely will be the 8-iron Sergio Garcia hit at 15. Where will it be housed? In a display case smack dab between the two 24-inch TVs where Victory Garcia watched his son win the Masters. [/restrict]