Masters 2017: Serene Sergio Garcia may have unlocked the secret to winning majors

By Iain CarterBBC golf correspondent

Serenity was a word that sprang to mind throughout the epic Masters that spawned Sergio Garcia's maiden major victory.

The 37-year-old broke through thanks to an apparent inner peace that enabled him to cope with all that Augusta and the elements could throw at him.

Whether it was the gusty winds of the first two days or the intimidating last-day surge of Justin Rose as he collected a hat-trick of front-nine birdies, Garcia remained unperturbed in becoming the only man to be sub-par in all four rounds.

It is a state of mind that was beyond the Spaniard in pretty much all of his previous 73 attempts to win a major.

"I felt very calm," Garcia said during his champion's news conference. "I felt very at ease."

Sitting there in his newly won Green Jacket, it seemed Garcia had finally found the secret - a key to unlock the major puzzle. And it could equip him well in his quest to ensure he does not become a one-hit wonder at major level.

This was particularly apparent when he recounted the events of the par-five 13th in his final round on Sunday. He had bogeyed the 10th and 11th and now his drive caught a tree and dropped into an unplayable position beneath a bush.

Commentating on BBC Radio 5 live, I suggested we were witnessing another major implosion from a player burdened by a suffocating desire to land the most glamorous of golf's top four prizes.

How wrong can one be? Garcia's response, to conjure a par before going birdie and eagle over the next two holes, was stunning.

"In the past, I would have started going at my caddie," Garcia admitted. "And oh, you know, why doesn't it go through [the tree's branches] and whatever.

"But I was like, well, if that's what is supposed to happen, let it happen. Let's try to make a great five here and see if we can put in a hell of a finish to have a chance.

Sergio Garcia shakes hands with Padraig Harrington after the latter wins the Open in a play-off at Carnoustie in 2007
Garcia lost the 2007 Open to Padraig Harrington in a play-off - the first of the Irishman's three majors in two seasons

"And if not, we'll shake Justin's hand and congratulate him for winning.

"So I think I did that very well throughout the whole week, and it's something I need to keep improving and keep getting better at it."

If he is able to regularly harness this new outlook, he will become a formidable force at future majors.

A better mental attitude would work in tandem with impressive physical conditioning that shows no sign of deterioration. Garcia had played 71 consecutive majors heading into the Masters.

That speaks volumes for his longevity and consistency at the top of the game despite several relative troughs before this standout peak in his career graph.

Now he is entitled to feel as though he can swiftly become a multiple major champion in the way Padraig Harrington did a decade ago.

Garcia was twice the fall-guy when the Irishman claimed his three crowns, starting with victory in 2007 at Carnoustie, where the Spaniard narrowly missed a putt for victory.

Harrington retained his Open crown at Birkdale a year later before beating Garcia to the PGA title at Oakland Hills the following month.

Sergio Garcia
Garcia celebrates winning the famed Green Jacket with his fiancee Angela Akins

This year the Open returns to Birkdale and the Masters champion can draw on another piece of history to fuel his hopes of snatching the Claret Jug.

In 1998, Mark O'Meara, who was four years older than Garcia is now, claimed his first major with a thrilling Masters triumph. Later that year he went to the Merseyside course and doubled his major tally.

Whether Garcia can emulate such a feat is subject to many factors - the form of rivals, the state of his game and how the draw is affected by seaside weather.

But there is no doubt he is better equipped to deal with the mental tests that come during the biggest tournaments.

Already a winner of the Players' Championship, Garcia has now won at every level of the game.

That might be it for him. Darren Clarke found a similar serenity to win the 2011 Open and it proved his crowning moment.

Yet Garcia, I sense, is more likely to kick on from this triumph and find ways to retain this successful state of mind. If he does, prepare for some thrilling jousts against Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and, yes, Sunday's runner-up Rose.

The Englishman, no doubt, feels this was a Masters that got away. His missed putts on the 13th and 17th let open the door to major glory, which Garcia was finally ready to charge through.

It was a thrilling and memorable Masters and one that may leave quite a legacy.


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