Sergio channels his inner Seve, earns ninth TOUR title
May 23, 2016
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
- Sergio Garcia has matched his hero Seve Ballesteros with nine TOUR wins, most among Spanish-born players. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
Sergio Garcia remembers the first time he met his countryman Seve Ballesteros. It was the 1995 Open Championship, and his father introduced him. He was in awe.
As a youth in Spain developing his game, Garcia was inspired by the charismatic, think-outside-the-box five-time major winner. Garcia’s favorite Seve memory is reflective of this – a 3-wood off his knees at the 1997 Open de France.
Garcia didn’t play any shots from his knees on Sunday at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but the way he won was reminiscent of the way his hero navigated a golf course.
Despite hitting two balls in the water, Garcia played the back nine at TPC Four Seasons in even-par 35, just enough to enter a playoff as 54-hole leader Brooks Koepka played his final five holes in 2 over.
Koepka found the water off the tee on the first playoff hole, and Garcia won with a par to earn his ninth PGA TOUR title, equaling Seve for most wins on TOUR by a Spanish-born player.
“To be next to a legend like him, it’s amazing,” said Garcia after the victory. “I kind of won it a little bit today his way.”
That he did. After missing a short par putt on No. 10, Garcia’s tee shot found the water left on the short par-4 11th. Rather than let things spiral out of control, he dug in, hitting his third shot to 8 feet and making the putt for a momentum-saving par.
Just three holes later, Garcia found the water again, this time with his second shot on the par-4 14th. Again, he limited the damage, getting up-and-down for bogey to stay within striking distance.
Garcia couldn’t help but get emotional after the win, and for multiple reasons. It was his first TOUR title since 2012 after several near-misses, and falling just short time and time again was certainly growing tiresome. To win Byron Nelson’s event for the second time – posing for a trophy shot with Peggy Nelson, after taking one with Lord Byron himself in 2004 – had to be pretty cool, also.
And to match Ballesteros in the TOUR annals … not a small feat. Ballesteros passed away in 2011, but Garcia will be a Seve fan forever.
“His passing still makes me sad,” Garcia said in a Golf magazine interview last November. “I miss him very much. He brought so much not only to the game, but to Spain.”
Twenty years ago, Garcia played in his first major, the 1996 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes. He played a few practice rounds with Seve that week, an experience he will never forget.
“To witness firsthand the way he walked around the course, the way that people looked at him, the energy … you could feel it around him,” Garcia said. “He had such great charisma and personality. He had an aura.
“Basically, he’s a hero.”
Garcia might not recognize it, but perhaps he’s becoming that hero to the next generation of aspiring Spanish golfers. At the very least, his back nine on Sunday would have surely made Seve proud.
First win on TOUR since 2012?— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 22, 2016
That's worth a smile. 👍🏻 pic.twitter.com/E4U0Jz7IFr
Sergio Garcia interview after winning AT&T Byron Nelson
TOP 5 MICROSOFT INSIGHTS
1. Garcia’s victory ties him with Seve Ballesteros for most PGA TOUR wins by a Spanish-born player with nine; third on the list is Jose Maria Olazabal with six. Five of Ballesteros’ wins came in majors, as did two of Olazabal’s. Garcia, of course, is still seeking his first major title.
2. Garcia had gone 60 starts without a TOUR victory, his previous coming at the 2012 Wyndham Championship. He had recorded six runner-up finishes in that time frame. The 36-year-old has notched 15 runner-ups and 11 third-place finishes in 301 career TOUR starts, in addition to his nine titles.
Sergio Garcia has now tied Seve Ballesteros for most wins by a Spanish-born player.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 22, 2016
He's your winner in Dallas. 🏆 https://t.co/steVDWr7wY
3. Brooks Koepka nearly managed a victory despite some severe struggles with his iron game. Koepka said after his final round that he “had no idea where the ball was going,” and the numbers back him up: he hit only 18 of 36 greens in regulation over the weekend, and his 44-of-72 total for the week ranked T60 of players who made the cut.
4. Garcia, on the other hand? He hit 28 of 38 greens on the weekend, and 57 of 72 for the week, ranking T4 in the field. And to think, they were all-square through 72 holes.
5. In Bud Cauley’s last full TOUR season, 2013-14, he ranked No. 155 in strokes gained: putting. It was quite the contrast at TPC Four Season, as he placed third in the category for the week en route to a T4 finish. It matched his best effort since a third-place finish at the 2012 Wyndham Championship – where Garcia had earned his most recent TOUR title before Sunday.
TOP 3 VIDEOS OF THE WEEK
1. Jordan Spieth stumbled to a 4-over 74 on Sunday, finishing T18 after entering the day in second place. He would probably like to forget Sunday, but he won’t forget making birdie on No. 17 on Saturday, after which he heard “probably the loudest roar I think I ever heard on the golf course.”
Jordan Spieth rolls in his birdie putt on No. 17 at AT&T Byron Nelson
2. Several area youths won’t remember Spieth’s week for his play, but for this:
Jordan Spieth's incredible marshmallow trick shot in 2016
3. The Web.com Tour’s BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation brought together pros and celebrities for a week of fun and competition. Alfonso Ribeiro, well known for his Carlton character on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” refused to do the Carlton dance unless somebody in his group made eagle …
Alfonso Ribeiro agreed to do the Carlton if somebody in his group made eagle ... https://t.co/O5DaIpGuYh— Web.com Tour (@WebDotComTour) May 21, 2016
1. Prior to last week, Robert Garrigus hadn't done much this season, failing to record a top-25 finish in his first 11 events. This, after a 2014-15 where he failed to keep his card and had to regain it through the Web.com Tour Finals.
Things turned around for the 38-year-old at TPC Four Seasons, though, as he fired weekend rounds of 66-66 en route to a T4 finish. It's his first top-10 since a T5 at the 2014 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
2. It was business as usual for Charles Howell III, who quietly posted a T4 finish with a birdie on the 72nd hole. It's Howell's fifth top-10 finish of the season and 79th on TOUR. He has now notched 43 top-10 finishes since his last victory, the 2007 Nissan Open.
3. Hats off to Bernhard Langer, who continued his tour de force on PGA TOUR Champions with a six-stroke victory at the Regions Tradition. It's the sixth senior major title for the 58-year-old, but it seems like he's just getting started.
4. Albin Choi blistered the front nine at Thornblade Club in the final round of the BMW Charity Pro-Am to the tune of 8-under 27, matching the best nine-hole score in Tour history. Alas, a triple bogey on the back nine led to a 7-under 64. Just your standard bittersweet 64.