Sergio Garcia made a phenomenal start to his professional golf career in 1999, and has always been looked upon as the one man who can wage a serious charge at the world No1 Tiger Woods. But despite all the promises and potential, major success has somehow eluded the Spanish sensation.
It all looked like changing last year during the British Open at Carnoustie, when the man lovingly called “El Nino” by his fans played solid golf throughout, but a couple of missed putts – and a brave Padraig Harrington – on the final day denied him his first Major win.
The 28-year-old Garcia, winner of six titles on the US PGA Tour and another six on the European Tour, is in the Emirates for the Dubai Desert Classic. He is also the co-designer of the Wind course at Jumeirah Golf Estates along with such proven masters of the trade as Pete Dye and Greg Norman.
Emirates Business caught up with the world No12 during the tournament.
The loss at the British Open must have been heartbreaking. But has it motivated you to do better this year?
—Of course. If not, I wouldn’t be out here playing. It was painful for some time, but then you get over that feeling and start looking forward.
Given how close you came to winning a Major last year, have you done something different during the off season to prepare for 2008?
—I’m just trying to get better. That’s pretty much it. That’s what I try every year and hopefully, win as many tournaments as I can. And hopefully, contend in the Majors again and see if we can steal at least one of them. That is one of the goals; and that’s what we are driving for.
You are the co-designer of the Wind course here. Have you made a site visit over there lately?
—Not yet, because we are still working out the design of it. We haven’t done any groundwork yet, so we haven’t been able to go and see. I’ve seen how the project site looks, but we haven’t started with the work. I think we will get going sometime later this year, or the start of next year.
How excited are you to work with two of the proven masters of golf course design – Dye and Norman?
—Yeah, two of the very best, no doubt about it. I think it’s a great opportunity for me, great learning experience. Golf course design is something that I want to get into very seriously later in my career.
But working with guys such as Pete and Greg, and considering how much I can learn from them, I think it is nice to get a head start like this.
Can you tell us about your course design philosophy and which course you really like playing around the world?
—Well, I’ve always liked challenging courses; courses that have several doglegs that make it tough for you on your driving and ones that usually have small targets, small greens. That’s probably why two of my favourite courses have been Valderrama and the TPC of Sawgrass.
You are back to the belly putter this week. Is this the right putter for you?
—Yeah, I started last week [at the Qatar Open] with a short one and I don’t know, it’s funny, because when I feel good with the short one, I feel really good. But when I’m not feeling that great, I’m a lot more consistent with the belly putter than I am with the short one. I’m sure I’ll go back to the short putter and try it again. But the belly putter has been good to me whenever I’ve used it.
Apart from the putter, have you changed anything for this year such as any of your equipment or any scheduling or caddie?
—Yeah, one of my caddies is changed. I went from Craig Harmon to Billy Foster. But on the equipment side, my bag is still pretty much the same as it was towards the end of last year.
This being a Ryder Cup year, are you planning to change something in your schedule?
—It depends. But I guess it’s similar to every year. Maybe, because it is the Ryder Cup, I will try to play one or two extra tournaments in Europe.
How much of a challenge is it to stop Tiger?
—It’s not just our problem, it’s everybody’s problem at the moment. Obviously, he’s very confident. He is playing at a very good level and we know that the only thing we can do is keep trying, we need to keep playing our hardest and try to challenge him as much as possible.
Born in 1980, the Spaniard started playing golf at the age of three, was a club champion at 12 and at 16 became the youngest player to make a cut at a European event.
'Dubai has offered me this great opportunity'