Watching him on the various telecasts over the past couple of days, smiling from ear to ear like a little kid, you could easily sense just how much his win on Sunday meant to him.
Sergio hasn't always been a favorite of mine either, but over the past couple of years one could sense that he'd made a notable effort to change his attitude. I mean, on the heels of his biggest victory back in 2008 at the Players Championship, within 18 months - he would gradually hit rock bottom, to the point where he literally contemplated whether or not he even wanted to keep playing professionally. He was asked by Monty to be one of his captain's picks back in the summer of 2010 for the upcoming Ryder, and he basically admitted that his heart just wasn't in it and declined, saying he would be a liability for the team.
Lots of stuff going on, both inside and outside the ropes. Girlfriend problems, confidence problems, contentment issues with life in general... the time away afforded him an opportunity to at least contemplate things.
And not that he made a remarkable turnaround immediately thereafter... there was the racially insensitive comment about having Tiger over for dinner and serving fried chicken back in 2013. But he accepted responsibility for the comments, apologized and said that he was way out of line.
Might've been the first time in his life that he assumed responsibility for his own actions. For a number of years, that wasn't who he was... the petulant spoiled brat who felt that the golf gods had it in for him, that every misfortune he faced in the final round of a major was somehow the works of this supernatural entity that had it in for him. Hell, just a few years ago he quipped that he'd probably never win a major.
But he finally accepted it. And through that process of acceptance, perhaps, possibly, maybe... the pressure lifted and he no longer spent every week of his life on tour focusing on the one thing that he'd yet to accomplish, but the fact that despite that obvious big win - he could still continue being one of the better players playing the game today. I'm guessing the change in his personal life, with finding someone who he could trust and share his life with, helped change both his attitude and his outlook on his career.
People forget, but Sergio was truly a prodigy... had a very accomplished pedigree in Junior golf, was brought up and raised within a golfing family. His father was a well known teaching pro back home in Spain. So when he burst onto the scene back in 1999, he'd already developed more than enough raw talent to be competitive as a rookie on the European Tour. He was, for all intents and purposes, a natural. And that bore out with an enormous amount of success right out of the gates. Within 10 years, he would amass 15 wins between both the Euro and PGA Tours (8 and 7 respectively). And then came 2008, when the struggles really began.
He'd never dealt with struggle before... this was unknown territory for him. Unlike Justin Rose, who struggled early on in his career (missed his first 21 consecutive cuts as a rookie!) who figured out early on in his career how to deal with and manage disappointment. This was essentially Sergio's mid-career crisis.
Anyway... interesting how both Rose and Garcia's differing career paths intersected this past Sunday at Augusta. One guy who already had a major under his belt, the calm and unflappable tactician who had a history of maintaining his composure and not allowing his emotions to dictate his success, versus the perceived 19-year old kid who felt the world owed him something who was nearly twice that age now.
Just to note how far Sergio has come, obviously. It didn't need to take 17 years for him to win that one tournament that would define his career and undoubtedly secure his position someday in the World Golf HoF, but it did. And to see how happy and fulfilled he seemed Sunday and these few days following is a great story, indeed.
The question is: is this the fairytale ending, or is there more to follow as far as majors?
It truly is anyone's best guess. But there's no denying that for four days in April, 2017 - the young, petulant Spaniard that we remember him as looked every bit of the mature superstar we thought he eventually would become many years earlier.
I look forward to the remaining majors, but the story last week in the season's first major will be incredibly difficult to eclipse for the remainder of the year.