Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia

Masters champion’s 28-year Olympic gold dream

Sergio Garcia was 12 years old when he was bitten by the Olympic dream.

From his home in the small town of Borriol, on the east coast of Spain, the future champion of The Masters couldn't believe that the US Dream Team of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Charles Barkley were playing three hours up the road at the Barcelona Olympics.

It was 1992 and the buzz of the world's biggest sporting event has fizzed inside the heart and mind of the former world golf No.2 ever since.

 

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Former World No.1 Sergio Garcia has revealed his desire for Olympic gold. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Former World No.1 Sergio Garcia has revealed his desire for Olympic gold. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

It's why when the likes of Australia's Adam Scott and Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Vijay Singh and Charl Schwartzel were all pulling out of the 2016 Rio Olympics due to fears of contracting the ZIKA virus, Garcia was teeing off, comparing the Games with a golf major.

Four years later, Garcia says his Olympic flame still burns.

In Sydney ahead of this week's Australian Open at The Australian, Garcia told The Sunday Telegraph why he's focused on joining the short list of Olympians to have won a gold medal at the age of 40.

 

The early days... A young Tiger Woods (L) grabs the shoulders of Sergio Garcia during the 1999 Masters. Picture: AP
The early days... A young Tiger Woods (L) grabs the shoulders of Sergio Garcia during the 1999 Masters. Picture: AP

TOKYO TEE-OFF

Golf teams at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will feature between two and four players. All players ranked inside the top 15 are eligible. There's a limit of four players from each country, with a maximum of two players from those nations without two players in that top 15.

Garcia, ranked No.37 in the world, is in a battle for Spain's last remaining spot, given his countryman Jon Rahm is on his way to Japan as the planet's second-ranked golfer.

"Qualification (for Tokyo) is at the end of June," Garcia said.

"Obviously Jon is in and then it looks like the next spot is going to be between Rafa Cabrera-Bello and myself.

"So we're both there, fighting for that spot.

Sergio Garcia is in a battle for the last spot on Spain’s Olympic golf team. Picture: Getty
Sergio Garcia is in a battle for the last spot on Spain’s Olympic golf team. Picture: Getty

"But I'm hoping that if I play the way I know I can play and if I have a good, solid decent year, I should be there.

"That's one of the goals to try (and win a gold medal) and I would love to do that.

"The experience of being there, with all the other athletes, getting a taste of it. I've always loved the Olympics.

"I've always been a fan of sports, so to be a part of them and to go and watch some of the other sports, it was a great treat in Rio.

"I'm sure Tokyo would be even better."

 

BRITISH OPEN BEFORE I RETIRE

Like any athlete or champion, or even the greatest NRL and AFL sides, finding the fight and ambition to win trophy after trophy is often their greatest challenge.

Garcia admits that after his career-defining green jacket victory at the 2017 Masters - his breakthrough major - he needed to reassess to go again.

 

 

But ahead of the Spaniard's 40th birthday next month, he says the mojo is back.

"As a golfer, the great thing about golf is that you can always get better,"' Garcia said.

"There's always things you can achieve.

"I would love to win the (British) Open before I stop - that's always been a goal of mine.

"I've had two or three really good chances and I would love to give myself another two or three good chances, coming forward to see if we can do it. It would be unbelievable.

"And I still want to play more Ryder Cups. I love that event."

 

UP AND ADAM

Garcia will use Mike Kerr, the former caddie of Adam Scott, for his first attempt at The Stonehaven Cup this week.

It was also Scott who, a few years ago, made Garcia taste his first-ever meat pie - which, ironically, he's nibbling on during our interview.

It's an insight into the mateship of Garcia and Scott.

Sergio Garcia passes his club to caddie Mike Kerr. Picture: Getty
Sergio Garcia passes his club to caddie Mike Kerr. Picture: Getty

Australia's world No.18 will definitely win another major, Garcia said.

"We've been kind of similar players and ball striking has always been our strength.

Scotty has got some knee issues here and there, but I think we've been the two healthiest guys on tour for 18-20 years.

"He did go through, I would say, a couple of years - probably five years ago - where he struggled a little bit.

"He won the (2013) Masters and it's such a high, but then you start settling down and maybe he changed a couple of things.

"It took a little bit longer than maybe he expected.

"But I played with him at the PGA at Bethpage (last May) and he played really nice.

"For sure (he can win another major), I totally think so. He's got the game, he's got the mind and he works hard.

"It's not easy to win majors. You only play four a year and there's a lot of great players out there. He's done it before and he can totally do it, without a doubt."

 

 

A SHOT AT THE OPEN

Garcia arrived in Sydney this week after a solid sixth at the European Tour season's finale in Dubai.

He used last Friday to plonk balls into the cups of The Australian's practice greens before rifling shots down the practice fairways.

A charismatic man with a streak of fire that at times has landed him in hot water with officials, Garcia says he's acutely aware of the many champions that have lifted the Stonehaven Cup, including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Rory McIlroy and his mate Adam Scott.

Yet when told a Spaniard had never won the event, the doting father of baby daughter Azalea says he's ready to make history.

"I've played PGA and the Heineken Masters, but I don't think I've ever played the Australian Open, so it's good to be able to finally do it," Garcia said.

"Hopefully (being the first Spaniard to win it) matches up nicely because the first time I played in Holland (at the KLM Open in September) was this year and I won it. So it would be nice to do that here, too.

"We'll definitely give it our best shot.

"People say that I should've been more successful and I agree - I could've been more successful. But at the same time, I could've been less successful.

"So I'm excited about (what's ahead), and some things I've been working on coming into next year.

"The feel is good."

News Corp Australia

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