A Green Jacket, a three-win season and the designation as European Tour Golfer of the Year highlighted Sergio Garcia’s dream 2017 season, but as the calendar turned to a new year, the Spaniard found success was not as forthcoming.
On the heels of his greatest year as a professional, he missed the cut in all four Major Championships — shooting a combined 29 over par in just four rounds at the Masters Tournament and the U.S. Open Championship and failing to break 70 in any of his Major starts.
What seemed so effortless in 2017, all of a sudden appeared difficult in 2018, and with a Ryder Cup lurking in the not-too-distant future, Garcia began to slip down the qualification lists. When he missed the cut at the US PGA Championship, it was mathematically guaranteed that the Spaniard would not automatically qualify for Team Europe.
In seven European Tour starts between the Masters and the US PGA Championship – his final appearance before the Captain’s picks — Garcia made only three cuts and recorded just a single top ten, notably which came at the HNA Open de France at Le Golf National, the course which would host The 2018 Ryder Cup.
Enter Thomas Bjørn, Team Europe’s Captain and the man charged with making the final four additions to the 12-player squad before they locked horns with the Americans in Paris.
Captain Bjørn focused on competitive advantage, pointing out that the words ‘European team room’ and ‘Sergio Garcia’ were synonymous.
“Sergio is the heartbeat of the team,” Bjørn said at the time. “People who have experienced Sergio in the team room realise how much he brings to it. Not only is he a fantastic golfer and goes out and does what he does in Ryder Cups time after time, but he also makes everyone around him better.
“He is just everything that that team room is. We talked about it a lot, what is great about a European team room, well he is what is great about a European team room. He is everything about what a European Ryder Cup team is all about.
“I've watched him as a player and as a vice-captain and there's just something about him. I believe he will go to France and deliver on and off the golf course.”
For the man once nicknamed ‘El Niño’, form is found through motivation, through adrenaline and momentum. The vote of confidence from Team Europe’s leader ultimately turned out to be exactly what the doctor ordered.
In his very first start following Captain Bjørn’s selection, and his final tune-up before The Ryder Cup began, Garcia finished in a tie for seventh place at the Portugal Masters. Just like that, he was back.
What Garcia accomplished at Le Golf National cannot be understated. After being left out of the opening session, he delivered a point alongside rookie Alex Noren in the afternoon Foursomes. The next morning, he partnered with Rory McIlroy to defeat the heavy hitting duo of Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau — his long putt on the 17th hole sealing victory.
Despite a loss later that afternoon, Garcia found himself making history once again in Sunday Singles, and this time, of the good kind.
In defeating Rickie Fowler 2&1, Garcia pushed his career Ryder Cup point total into uncharted territory. The three points he earned gave him 25 ½ for his career and moved him ahead of Nick Faldo as the most prolific point-earner in Ryder Cup history.
“I don’t usually cry but today I couldn’t help it. What a week,” he said. "It has been a rough year but we fought hard and I'm so thankful for Thomas for picking me and believing in me. I am so happy to get the cup back."
"A lot of people thought the Ryder Cup was over before it was played. I guess unfortunately they picked the wrong team."
The validation Garcia earned in his journey from Captain’s pick to all-time leading Ryder Cup points scorer made an immediate impact on his game.
In his first start since hoisting The Ryder Cup for a remarkable sixth time, Garcia lifted another familiar trophy, when he won his own event, the Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation, for a third consecutive time.
The win completed the comeback, and since, Garcia has not finished outside the top ten, owing his renewed form to the implicit support of Team Europe’s skipper.