The 2017 Masters is in the books, and Sergio Garcia is a major champion for the first time.
Now that Garcia has broken through, will more majors follow? And who replaces him on top of the list of best golfers without a major championship?
Our expanded panel answers these questions and more in this week’s edition of Monday Four-Ball.
Will this be the only major that Sergio Garcia wins, or do you see more in his future?
ESPN.com senior golf analyst Michael Collins: There will be no “floodgates” of majors for Sergio Garcia, but I do believe he can win one more. I think if conditions are right he could win an Open Championship or a PGA Championship now that the monkey is off his back. Next time he gets in contention, it won’t be a meltdown he’ll remember; it will be his green jacket.
ESPN.com senior golf writer Bob Harig: There will be more. Now the weight is lifted. The nearly two-decade quest is over, and if Garcia can get in the mix again, there’s no reason why he can’t win. He remains one of the best ball-strikers in the game, and having a good putting week on the greens of Augusta should only boost his confidence in the one area that has held him back.
ESPN.com senior golf editor Kevin Maguire: Wish I could say he’ll win more, but at his age, and, more importantly, with his scar tissue at the majors, he very likely will end up being the best one-time major winner of his generation.
ESPN.com senior writer Ian O’Connor: I think this Masters victory liberates Sergio to win one or two more majors. He’s too good and creative a shot maker not to win at least one Open Championship. That’s next on the docket.
ESPN.com senior golf writer Jason Sobel: Look, there are no floodgates in this game. It seems like every time a player wins his first major, we start asking if that player will begin winning them in bunches. Nope, doesn’t happen that way. But I’ve said for a long time that I thought Sergio will be a multiple major champion. It might not come this year or even next year, but I think he’s got a Claret Jug in his future.
ESPN.com senior writer Kevin Van Valkenburg: I think we’ll see an Open Championship in his future, and maybe a PGA. If Sergio won three majors, I think that would be fitting for his talent level. This will free him up mentally in a way that might be scary. And no one controls the distance of his irons better than Sergio. This might be just the beginning of a mini-run.
ESPN The Magazine deputy editor Ty Wenger: Absolutely more. I could see three or four before he’s done. Sergio’s been one of the best ball-strikers in the game since he came on tour. What’s gotten in his way has either been that balky putter — or the balky space between his ears. Thanks to the claw grip, while he’s still generally awful at putting, he’s less awful than before. More importantly, he seems to have figured out how to shout down those demons in his head. He’s already my favorite at British.
With Garcia off the list, who is now the best player to have never won a major?
Collins: Lee Westwood. Since Sergio broke his ceiling after 73 starts in majors, can Westwood find a way to muscle through the baggage of 76 starts with zero to show?
Harig: Rickie Fowler. There are others ranked higher (such as Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Thomas), but Fowler’s ability plus his resume suggest he should win a major. Sunday was disappointing but should be another learning experience.
Maguire: Lee Westwood’s tenure on this list might be a little overripe, so Rickie Fowler takes over the No. 1 spot now. The best part is, that could change as quickly as at Erin Hills, host site of the 2017 U.S. Open in June.
O’Connor: Matt Kuchar. And after the way he aced the 16th hole Sunday and then made an 8-year-old’s day with the autographed ball, here’s hoping Kuchar gets his Sergio moment in the near future.
Sobel: I’m hedging on this one. If we’re going with the lifetime achievement award, then it’s Lee Westwood. If we’re looking for an accomplished guy, it’s Rickie Fowler. And if we’re looking at it based on pure talent, it just might be Jon Rahm, the 22-year-old who will have plenty of chances to win these things for years to come.
Van Valkenburg: Definitely Lee Westwood. Hard to believe he nearly snuck into the top 10 here yet again, relying almost entirely on ball striking. Watching him hit 5-footers under pressure makes me sad, but he can absolutely flush it from the fairway.
Wenger: It seems like “Lee Westwood” is the thing I’m supposed to say, but I’ve seen his backdoor-to-a-top-10 dance for years now — long enough to no longer believe that he’s actually serious about winning one. So I’ll go with Rickie Fowler, who has everything it takes to win the big ones, save for the closing kick. If and when he learns how to close the big events — and golly, he’s still only 28 years old – he has the skills to win multiple.
How does this change the narrative of Sergio’s career?
Collins: Sergio can no longer be called a choker. Now his biography will always have a happy ending with highlights of the week that was. Now the highlights of the missed putts and close calls will always be followed by, “Coming up next: Sergio’s redemption.”
Harig: It helps turn some of the other close calls in majors into positives rather than negatives. He now has 23 top-10s in major championships and 13 top-5s. Adding a victory to those numbers shows just how strong he has been in his career.
Maguire: Although it doesn’t erase all the major championship heartache, Garcia just rewrote the first sentence of his obituary. He will forever be remembered as the 2017 Masters champion, taking his place alongside fellow Spanish legends Steve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal.
O’Connor: Sergio didn’t just win a major; he won the major in a playoff. The green jacket, the career invite to the Masters — wow, what a game-changer. Nobody will ever look at him the same way.
Sobel: It now mirrors the arc of Phil Mickelson, another snakebitten player at majors until he claimed his first one and started adding on afterward. We’ll always remember that Sergio needed nearly two decades of being a pro to win one, but we’ll also remember the resiliency that it took to finally do it.
Van Valkenburg: It definitely recasts it as a story of overcoming your demons instead of one filled with regrets and, to be honest, a lot of whining. Maybe that’s silly that we use one golf tournament to shape the entire narrative of a guy’s career, but the Masters is such an iconic tournament, it has a way of doing that. This is way bigger than if Sergio had won a PGA Championship. He’ll have a spot in that Champions Locker Room with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth forever.
Wenger: Radically. Permanently. Inextricably. You can say all you want about Sergio’s win at the Players Championship being like a fifth major (it’s not) and the undeniable fact that he’s the greatest Ryder Cup player of all-time. Those are cute alternative facts. But this win permanently changes the Sergio storyline. As far as I’m concerned, when that putt went in on the 73rd, they should have ordered up his plaque for the Hall of Fame.
Where on the course did Garcia win the Masters?
Collins: He won it with the par on the 13th hole. Taking an unplayable drop and getting up and down for par while Justin Rose, who was greenside in two, walked away with the same score I believe gave Sergio the confidence he needed to make magic on the closing holes.
Harig: At the 13th hole. That could have turned into a disaster and looked to be a certain bogey when Garcia pulled his drive into the woods. But even after he took an unplayable lie, Garcia salvaged par with an 8-foot putt to remain within two strokes of Rose.
Maguire: It’s easy to say his putt to win in the playoff, but he had two chances from there. Garcia really won his first major on Saturday when his second shot into the par-5 13th hole stayed up on the bank, a la Fred Couples on No. 12 in 1992. The golf gods were with him there. Garcia had been terrible in the third round historically and overcame that track record to win. He even said after the victory that he was more nervous in Round 3 than in the final round, which seems counterintuitive until you see how poorly he has played on Saturdays at the Masters.
O’Connor: The 13th hole. The old Sergio would’ve said the hell with it after the bogeys at Nos. 10 and 11. The old Sergio would’ve made seven at the 13th and finished T-3. The new Sergio was resourceful enough to save par, stay in contact with Rose and then beat him in a playoff.
Sobel: I’m going to keep this one really simple: In the playoff, he bombed a drive down the fairway, hit a terrific approach shot to 12 feet and, just needing a two-putt, rolled his birdie attempt into the hole. Everything leading up to that was obviously important, but he won it when he needed to.
Van Valkenburg: The 8-iron he hit into the 15th green seems like the obvious answer, but I’m going to go with the par putt he made on 13. I was standing there watching him take his drop after he hit the ball into the azalea bushes. To me, it looked like his body language was typical tragic Sergio. I was dead wrong. He gathered himself and was suddenly serene. He hit a great pitch and then made an incredible par. That gave him life. Old Sergio would have lost the tournament right there.
Wenger: To me the par save on 13, from that unplayable lie, was the turning point. The old Sergio, as he admitted after, would have chosen that moment to implode. And for a few seconds, when he kept staring up at the tree branches, seemingly obsessed with which one had swatted his drive into the bush, I thought he would. But from that moment on, he did not hit a single loose shot the rest of the round. It was like he hit a reset button that he never realized he’d had.
Four-Ball: What Masters triumph means for Sergio Garcia – ESPN