Could 2017 be Sergio Garcia’s year to finally rid himself of the unwanted tag of being ‘the best golfer in the world never to win a major’?
The Spaniard signalled he will be a force in the majors this year after lifting the Omega Dubai Desert Classic trophy to claim his 12th European Tour title with a three-shot victory over Open Champion Henrik Stenson.
Garcia got off to a flying start on the final day at Dubai’s Emirates Golf Club, picking up a birdie at the 1st hole en route to a three under 69, to finish at 19 under and seal the wire-to-wire win.
After closing out the third round in near darkness on Saturday night with a birdie apiece on the 18th hole, the final round was set up for a fascinating battle between Ryder Cup team mates Garcia, Stenson and England’s Ian Poulter.
While Poulter had a disappointing final day, ending with a four over 76, Stenson managed to cut Garcia’s lead to just one stroke after back-to-back birdies at the 13th and 14th holes.
But Garcia responded magnificently with a brilliant approach to just a few feet and a tap-in birdie on the 15 hole, as Stenson dropped a shot. Garcia’s three stroke advantage proved to be unassailable with three holes to play.
Stenson ended the day with his own round of 69 to finish runner up on 16 under, two clear of Denmark’s Lasse Jensen and Englishman Tyrrell Hatton. England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick and American Peter Uihlein were a further two strokes back in a tie for fifth.
“It feels pretty good to be sitting next to this trophy. It was a great week for me obviously and to be able to finish off the week like I did today makes it very special,” said Garcia, who will now move back into the top-10 of the world golf ranking.
“We know Henrik will always come at you and he got on that run on the back nine to get within one shot. He hit it right over the flag on 15 and I knew he would have a tough up and down.
“To be able to hit the shot I hit with a 6-iron there was massive to give myself a kick-in birdie, and then obviously he made bogey. Then it was just a matter of staying calm, collected the last three holes and you know, that was good enough to win.”
The last player to win in Dubai, Danny Willett, went on to win the Masters, and the stories about whether Garcia can finally crack a major victory have begun. And why wouldn’t they. He has more top-10 finishes in majors without a victory than any player in the history of the game.
“When I get to Augusta, U.S. Open, the British Open, PGA, I just want to do the best I can. Just like I try any other week. So that's not going to change,” Garcia said.
“Some weeks I'm really good like this week, and some weeks are not quite as good. But it doesn't mean that I'm not trying. So at the end of the day the only thing I can do is give my best out there and if I leave the course feeling like I gave it everything then I am trying.
“Some days I don’t feel as comfortable but it doesn't mean that you're not trying as hard – it’s just not that easy. You know, golf is tough.
“You know, we try to play as well as we can every single week, and you know, I'm going to keep trying and give myself more shots, more chances at majors and you know, see what happens.
‘I’m not going to put any sort of pressure on myself but you know I will be trying my hardest to finally win a major.”
Garcia’s calm demeanour on the course and the gradual revival of his game can be attributed to finding love off the course. The 37-year-old is engaged to former Golf Channel reporter Angela Atkins and the couple plan to marry after the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in July.
“Meeting Angela has obviously helped me a lot, and we’re very excited about what we’ve got coming up this year and in the future,” Garcia told the Daily Mail.
‘I’ve never made it a secret with you guys that being happy outside the ropes makes such a difference to me inside them, and we’ve seen that again here this week.”
Of the Australian performances, West Australian amateur Curtis Luck was the best, finishing at five under and tied for 23rd place. Fellow West Aussie Jason Scrivener, Hong Kong Open winner Sam Brazel, Queensland’s Scott Hend and Victorian Nathan Holman all made the cut but were out of contention.
* Additional reporting courtesy of European Tour