Garcia receives hero's welcome at The Players

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Heckled for much of his PGA Tour career, Sergio Garcia received a hero’s welcome Wednesday at The Players.

During a nine-hole practice round, he soaked in the endless adulation of the fans, acknowledging each and every cheer of “Sergio!” and “Congratulations on the Masters!” with a smile or a wave. The rope line between the 17th green and 18th tee was jammed with kids, and Garcia patted their heads and grabbed their hands and tenderly touched their faces.

Everyone loves a winner.

Garcia is returning to work 31 days after his life changed in unimaginable ways. No longer is he the best player without a major. No longer is he the petulant brat who waits for the worst. No, he’s now the proud owner of the green jacket; a competitor whose résumé now includes a major among his 31 career titles; and a man who is proud of his career-long perseverance and yet humbled by the outpouring of support from his peers.

“They were so pleased for me,” Garcia said. “It almost feels like they wanted me to win it more than I did.”

Sure, there have been some incredible, pinch-me moments over the past few weeks, none better than when he was part of the ceremonial kickoff for El Clasico, the Spanish League match between his beloved Real Madrid and Barcelona, where 90,000 delirious soccer fans chanted his name. But the part that touched him most was when he realized how popular his victory seemed to be, both around the world and inside the locker room.   

Garcia’s reputation among his peers has always been at odds with how the general sports fan viewed him, their perception perhaps tainted by scenes of the Spaniard spitting into the cup or whining about Tiger Woods or blaming the golf gods. Here at TPC Sawgrass, where Garcia has a win (2008) and four other top-5s, the treatment toward him has been particularly brutal, with spectators coughing in his downswing and delighting in his occasional misery. Indeed, for as much credit as his sublime ball-striking deserves, his best quality has always been his resilience – his willingness to put himself in position to get his heart broken once again.

Source : The Golf Channel

posted at 11 May 2017 07:31:55

 



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