Sergio Garcia has been a winner of the Masters golf tournament, a six-time Ryder Cup victor, and has spent the majority of his career in the top 10 world golf rankings, as well as scooping career earnings approaching $78 million.
The Spaniard – 40 in January – had an amazing first year as a pro, in 1999. He joined both the European and PGA tours, finishing runner-up to the imperious Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship, and became the youngest ever Ryder Cup player, at the age of 19.
And yet a string of runner-up and third-place finishes in the Noughties left ‘El Nino’ in danger of becoming the perennial ‘bridesmaid’, to the extent where he took a break from golf, missing competing at the Ryder Cup in 2010.
But he broke his run of near-misses in major championships by taking the 2017 Masters at the iconic event in Augusta, beating Englishman Justin Rose on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.
Revitalised and now back to his best, Garcia spike to RSNG about how he uses technology to advance his golf…
RSNG In recent years you’ve had a change of club manufacturer, and I know you’ve been paying more attention to ball type and density. How important are those things for you? SERGIO GARCIA, PRO GOLFER ‘They are important in the sense you are always looking for extra advantage, or extra ways to get to the point where you can work an extra half percent out of your play.’
‘I believe we can all wake up in the morning and find extra performance from somewhere, and it would be very wrong of me, as a golfer, to keep doing the same things, keep using the same clubs, without looking for ways to try to be better, all the time.’
RSNG Is it a conscience decision to innovate? SG ‘It is, but it is also responding to how your body is changing. I am not as young as I used to be and I have to accept perhaps I am not as strong or as versatile. That is just natural and it will be the case.’
‘Some changes I make to my equipment is therefore as a result of that, and I am trying to find new performance from somewhere to compensate for elements that I might lose over time… and some of those elements I will lose without even realising it, which is where technology comes in.’
‘I look at the technology we have now as players and it is so far removed from what was available years ago. We are really very lucky in that respect – we can track so much and know how to repair or refine what we see on screen.’
What makes me really excited is when I can add a few miles per hour with the combination of a new driver and ball.
RSNG Would you say golfers now rely on technology? SG ‘I wouldn’t say they rely on it, no. When you are in the zone as a golfer your ability to pick out imperfections is still incredibly strong.’
‘I have always been quite a ‘see and feel’ kind of guy. So, if I am hitting the ball and it feels good, if I can see the flight of the ball that I picture in my mind, if I am able to replicate that with a golf ball, then usually it’s a win-win situation.’
‘It’s a bit like trial and error where I work back and forth with myself and all of the ball technicians and everyone around me.’
RSNG Are you excited or fearful when a new piece of equipment becomes available? SG ‘For me, it is excitement. The new stuff always feels great and also looks really good. What also makes me really excited is when I can add a few miles per hour with the combination of a new driver and ball.’
‘Speed is not always the most important thing – especially when it comes to a driver. You have to see how the swing feels, how the flight of the ball works, the shape that you want to get with a driver and if you are happy with all of those things, but it is still a nice feeling.’
‘I know that there are a few players on the tour who maybe a little bit afraid of trying something new because they feel it can unbalance their game – especially if they have been able to get everything to click.’
RSNG How long do you stick with something before changing? SG ‘Obviously I would never change something if I am in the middle of a good run. You always have to go with the momentum of winning.’
‘But if I feel something is tapering off or I just need a fresh approach to something in my game, I will be inclined to change, and I will go through that process once every couple of years.’
RSNG When you are testing things out, how do you rate what you are seeing in the numbers versus what you feel when you hit the ball and everything from the striking zone? SG How everything feels is a bit more important to me – if it looks and feels good, then that is good enough for me. However, we will also go and check the numbers to make sure that everything is married up with the look and feel of the club and ball and I get that confirmation.’
‘You usually know what to expect before you check the numbers and that’s something you get from the experience of playing the game for so long.’
I am very proud to have made it this far – every Ryder Cup is different and they’re all special, even the ones that ended in defeat
RSNG So the Ryder Cup in 2020 – it’s your 10th? SG ‘I am very proud to have made it this far. Every Ryder Cup is different and they are all special, even the ones that ended in defeat.’
‘From my very first, at Brookline, when I was paired with Jesper Parnevik, to now being one of the more senior players who can draw on the experience and calm that I had to take from others, there is something incredibly special and clearly a lot of excitement to come.’
RSNG Is it easier and nicer to play with (and against) friends? SG ‘Yes the spirit exists and everyone is so out of their shell at the Ryder Cup. People talk about the camaraderie in the European camp, but there is lots of healthy competitive spirit across to the US side as well.’
‘We are competitors but no-one ever doubts how lucky we are to be playing in the Ryder Cup and they are, ultimately, grateful for that opportunity.’
RSNG What can you put your amazing record in the tournament down to? SG ‘Well, I just try to be myself – it’s as simple as that. I love the team atmosphere and always have. Even though I pretty much play an individual sport for nearly all of the season, each year, I do enjoy the team element of it.’
‘When I get into a Ryder Cup, that’s what it brings out in me. I can open up to all of my playing partners and I can try to make them as comfortable as possible.’
‘One thing that I have always said that I love about the Ryder Cups – and there are many things that I do love about them – but one of my absolute favourites is that you are able to create some amazing friendships for that week.’
‘The guys that you are friends with, it helps you bond even more and I have been very fortunate to do that many, many times.’
WHAT NEXT? Trial and error – Sergio sinks a 10ft putt but scores an octuple bogey!