Garcia ponders Masters return as fatherhood looms

Sergio Garcia captured his first major title last April at Augusta National. — Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters pic
Sergio Garcia captured his first major title last April at Augusta National. — Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, March 13 — Sergio Garcia began handling Masters champion duties in astonishing fashion today, speaking on a conference call from a hospital where his wife was about to give birth to their first child.

The 38-year-old Spaniard, who captured his first major title last April at Augusta National, and wife Angela, whom he married last July, were at a Texas hospital awaiting a baby girl who was not expected to arrive until Sunday.

“It looks like she’s coming a little early,” Garcia told reporters.

“It has been an eventful morning. About an hour and a half ago Angela’s water broke. We’re at the hospital. Exciting. Nervous. It’s very exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time.”

The situation left Garcia pondering one dream come true, matching Spanish idols Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal as a Masters champion last year, while another dream, becoming a dad, was happening around him.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Garcia said. “It has been unbelievable, everything that has been going on. It has been great, every moment of it.

“I’ve been fortunate to have an amazing career, an amazing life and now it’s getting even better.”

Garcia couldn’t compare the pressure of competing for a major title with that of expecting to become a first-time father.

“It’s a different feeling. I’m not the one having it. I’m on the outside looking in. I’m a little nervous,” Garcia said.

“I look forward to everything, to raise a little girl, make all the decisions as best as we can. Hopefully we have a healthy baby girl that grows up to be an amazing woman.”

No golfer has won the Masters twice in a row since Tiger Woods in 2001 and 2002, and Woods, 42, had his best PGA finish in nearly five years last week, sharing second at the Valspar Championship where Garcia was fourth.

Tiger ‘will do well’

Woods, a 14-time major champion and four-time Masters winner, appears to be peaking in his surgery comeback with the Masters looming on April 5-8.

“It has obviously been a big impact,” Garcia said of Woods’ return to form. “We all know what kind of player he is and player he can be when he’s healthy. The way he has been able to swing doesn’t look like he’s in any pain — that’s the most important thing.

“I’m sure he’s excited to come back to Augusta. It’s a place where he has done well. I expect he will do well. I don’t know how well. I expect he will be a little nervous. He will have to deal with all those feelings again.”

Garcia, who has won at Valderrama and Singapore and switched equipment from TaylorMade to Callaway since capturing the Masters green jacket, isn’t concerned about being considered a 2018 Augusta favourite.

“I don’t know if I should be,” Garcia said. “It doesn’t really matter to me. I like my game. I’m happy with my new equipment. I’m as excited as I can be to come back there and defend my title.”

Garcia has asked Olazabal about time management as a Masters champion but not inquired to rival dads about how fatherhood could impact his game.

“It can’t be that different from what we deal with week in and week out. We can manage it,” Garcia said of time constraints.

“Every child is different and every family is a different one. You’ve got to figure out what works for you. It’s brand new for both of us. We’re not sure what to expect. We’ll get the experience of being together with the baby in the best way for all of us.”

‘Need a bigger place’

The baby has nursery walls of light grey and pink plus some “cute little dresses” for the Masters, where Garcia needs a new rental house.

“We need a bigger place with the baby coming,” Garcia said. “I’m not that superstitious to try and do everything the same. I don’t think it depends on that.

“It’s just a matter of going back there and concentrating on what I’m doing and do it the best I can so I can defend my title.” — AFP

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