By Frank Pingue
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) – After earning a long-awaited maiden major title at last year’s Masters, Sergio Garcia would be forgiven for allowing a few superstitions to creep in at Augusta National Golf Club next week.
Yet the Spaniard, who needed 74 attempts finally to claim a major, said he would not be trying to replicate last year’s off-course routines, nor staying in the same house or eating the same foods.
“I’m not that superstitious to try to do everything like I did last year,” said Garcia.
“I think that at the end of the day, you control things in your head…
“It’s just a matter of going back there, being confident again, enjoying what I’m doing and try to do it the best way possible so I can give myself a great chance at defending my title.”
For Garcia, slipping into a Green Jacket after last year’s playoff victory over European Ryder Cup team mate Justin Rose fulfilled a lifelong dream of matching his Spanish idols Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal as a Masters champion.
The 38-year-old Spaniard is now focused on becoming only the third golfer to successfully defend their Masters title and first since Tiger Woods accomplished the feat in 2002.
Garcia has enjoyed top-10 finishes in each of his last three PGA Tour starts — two of which came at World Golf Championships events in Mexico and Austin. He is happy with where his game is even if he is not considered a favorite to win the Masters.
“I’m excited to go back there and defend my title as well as I can be and as well as I can do,” Garcia said about returning to Augusta National for the April 5-8 Masters.
“You know, if I’m looked at as a favorite or not, it doesn’t really matter, because at the end of the day, it depends on myself and what I do and on what I believe.
“So, you know, those things, I don’t think really matter that much, anyway.”
Since winning the Masters, Garcia has got married, wore his Green Jacket to his wedding reception, was named the European Tour Player of the Year and named his baby girl Azalea, after Augusta National’s 13th hole where he scrambled for a miracle par in the final round to spark his victory charge.
Garcia, whose Green Jacket tour included stops at Wimbledon and the El Clasico match between soccer powerhouses Barcelona and Real Madrid, said the past year had opened even his eyes to just how big the year’s first major is globally.
“Even though I thought it was massive, I realize how much bigger it is all over the world and how much people really look up to the Masters and the Green Jacket and everything,” said Garcia.
“So, it’s been an amazing experience. It’s been awesome. It’s been a tremendous honor, and it’s probably, like I said, bigger than maybe I thought or expected. It’s been a fun ride.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Toby Davis)