Sergio Garcia ended a three-year victory drought when he romped to an 11-shot win at the Castelló Masters on Sunday. And after dedicating his win to the late Seve Ballesteros, the 31-year old Spaniard sat down with Juan Morenilla of El País to reflect on who he is, where he’s been and where he’s going. It will be interesting to hear what Rory McIlroy has to say when he reflects on the first 12 years of his career in 2019.
Q: Your broke through in 1999. What do you see when you look back?
Sergio Garcia: I’m very proud of everything I’ve achieved, not just in the 12 years I’ve been a professional but also as an amateur, which people forget. I’m enthusiastic again. I’ve regained the desire to play the game. I want to get back where I believe I belong. It’s a little like, not being reborn, but coming back to life. I’ve been through two complicated years on an off the course. They’ve been tough but good years at the same time. They’ve helped me to learn a lot about myself, not just in golf, but on a personal level.
Q. What have you learnt?
S.G. The things I need to be happy such as being near the people who really go out of their way to help me. I’m a more peaceful person now but I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve. It’s the way I am. I’m Spanish, I’m hot-blooded and it shows. I know myself a little better and I give golf its due importance, no more.
Q. What’s left of the kid of 1999?
S.G. Many things. My personality, the way I play the game, my desire. That’s all still there. Of course, I’m more mature now. When I was 19 I thought that golf was the only thing in my life.
Q. Do you have any regrets?
S.G. No. Everything happens for a reason and you have to learn from these things. I’m maturing. It’s probably taken me longer than expected to mature, and not just on the golf course. You start realising things. It’s a bit complicated because I travel a lot and while I have friends, I’m semi-alone.
Q. Does it bother you that they still call you El Niño?
S.G. It never bothered me. I was very young when I started and I was the big new thing. It all came together. Now there are other Niños. I’ve always liked the nickname. I’m proud of it.
Q. Has it been very demanding?
S.G. No. At the end of the day I have to satisfy myself. Everyone would love me to win every tournament but that wouldn’t be a good thing. As I player, maybe it would be good but it wouldn’t improve me as a person. You learn from your mistakes. Two or three times in my career things could have been different but more for reasons of destiny that anything else people might say. All I can do is give my all and hope it’s enough.
Q. More than 10 years at the top, 50 majors in a row, 17 top 10’s in majors, you were world No 2. Have these achievements been undervalued?
S.G. We’re back to the same thing. People would say: “If you don’t qualify for The Open, will you do everything in your power?” Well, yes, because I love to play but not because it will be my 50th major. Records don’t inspire me. I’m not a player who’s chasing records.
Q. You haven’t got a major. Are you judged for that?
S.G. As I said, that doesn’t affect me in the slightest. I’ve come close to winning three. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be for whatever reason. That’s life. There are people who get a chance, everything works out for them and they win. There there are people who have six or seven chances, like me, but unfortunately you come across a Tiger or a Harrington, or someone does some special that leaves you in second place or just on the verge.
Q. What’s been missing?
S.G. I can’t go to bed thinking: “And if I had done that….” In the 2007 Open, every time I see that putt in my mind, I see it going in. I hit it exactly the way I want and on the line I wanted. I can see it going in but unfortunately it didn’t want to drop. In the play-off things didn’t go my way. I hit three or four very good putts that didn’t want to go in. Then in the 2008 US PGA, where Harrington also beat me, on the 16th my approach went a bit right and into the water. But I’d prefer to hit that shot that the one he hit [into the bunker left] and then had the luck to hole a very long putt. At times like that you do what you think is right. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.
Q. You talk about luck. Isn’t that an excuse?
S.G. I don’t care if people think it’s an excuse or not. I’m not saying that it is. I’m saying I did all I could. As I said, in that PGA I hit a great shot on the the 15th that hits the flag, goes in and out of the hole and finishes two or three metres away and I miss the birdie putt. That could have changes everything. They’re curiosities. I’ve always believe in destiny and that things happening for a reason.
Q. Are you self-critical?
S.G. Yes, always.
Q. And do the people around you point out your mistakes?
S.G. Yes. We’re always trying to be perfectionists but you have to live the moment. There are moments of great pressure.
Q. How do you become disillusioned?
S.G. I got fed up with golf, there’s no doubt about that. They’re tough times and anyone who says they’ve never had them is lying. There are always down times when you think: “If only I did something else.” The important thing is to surround yourself with good people. If you are alone, it’s more difficult to get through those times.
Q. Did you think of giving up the game?
S.G. Yes, for a while yes. I thought I’d take a long break, sox months or a year, but there were still a few things I wanted to do and I couldn’t just leave it just like that. I’ve always been competitive, even when my head wasn’t in a great place. I went out to give it 100 percent but I couldn’t keep it going. When things started to go a bit wrong, I collapsed and I lost the will to fight.
Q. Have you even thought about seeking psychological help?
S.G. Yes, I’ve thought about everything. I had a (female) friend who was a relexation therapist and that helped. But you have to believe in these things and quite honestly I’ve never been much of a believeS.G.: If you are feeling good, you tell yourself these things. I’ve never needed that kind of psychological help. I’ve been able to win without it. I don’t think it’s for me though it helps other players a great deal.
Q. So how do you train your mind?
S.G. I talk to myself, in my head, as well as possible. I gee myself up and try to give myself confidence. That’s all a psychologist or a therapist can tell you: believe totally in yourself. I tell myself the same thing. If I’m not feeling good, it’s harder.
Q. What about Ballesteros, Olazábal and Jiménez. Did you ask them for advice?
S.G. Yes. When I started, definitely. I always got on really well with them, especially Chema. They helped me a lot at the start, when I was more of a juvenile. Later, I gained my own experiences and everyone lives things in a different way. Someone could tell me something that might help me but I’ve got to apply it to my own life and my way of being.
Q. Where do you live?
S.G. When I can, I’m in Castellón a bit. I was born here and I like it here. In the US I play and that’s about it. If I have time, I spend time in my house in Switzerland in Crans-Montana. It’s so relaxing. I love the tranquility, taking walks. You don’t meet a soul. I also do cross-country skiing. My brothers are into snowboard but I give it the respect it deserves!
Q. Why did you give up Twitter?
S.G. It was a shame. I like to read why people say but there were four or five who were writing rubbish and I lost my patience and told them to go and stick it… And that’s not going to do me any good. I’d prefer not to give rude people the chance to piss me off.
Q. What do you do for Borriol, the third division football team?
S.G. I’m Player-President. I’ve always loved football. About seven seasons ago a group of friends, my family and myself decided to take our village team and give it a bit more quality, a bit more class, so that people could enjoy it more. I look for sponsors and raise funds so we can sign players.
Q. As a Real Madrid fan, what do you think of Mourinho?
S.G. I like him because he knows what he wants. Sometimes he makes mistakes with his statements but he often says what other people would never dare to say. That’s says a lot about his personality. It doesn’t mean it’s the absolute truth but and it might not be politically correct, but he’s clear about what he wants.