Monday, 10 April 2017

Don’t stop believing

73 times Sergio Garcia had lined up to compete in one of golf’s majors, and 73 times he had failed to top the leaderboard. He had come close, finishing second twice in both The Open and the US PGA. In the 2007 Open a par on the final hole would have given him the title, but his putt narrowly missed and he went on to lose to Padraig Harrington in a play-off, and he lost out again to Harrington the following year in the PGA after relinquishing the lead by finding the water on the 16th in his final round.

He couldn’t have come much closer without winning one, but he finally put all that behind him yesterday as he held his nerve to beat Justin Rose in a play-off to win The Masters. After 20 years of playing in majors he had finally excused himself from the “best golfer never to win a major” debate. His win perhaps gives hope to the other contenders for that dubious title: Colin Montgomery (75 starts) and most notably Lee Westwood (76 appearances), who himself had a good weekend but finished 18th.

Garcia isn’t the first to have achieved sporting success after a long wait. Last summer Wales played in their first major football final for 58 years, and marked the occasion by making it to the semi-finals. Also from the world of football, one of the most famous FA Cup finals of all time saw the nation hoping that 38 year old Stanley Matthews could cap his 21 year long career with a winners medal, and indeed he did, inspiring his Blackpool side to come from behind to beat Bolton Wanderers in the 1953 final.

Away from football, what sports fan can forget Dennis Taylor beating Steve Davis on the final black to win an epic World Snooker final? That was his 12th appearance at the Crucible though, and many thought he would never become world champion at the age of 36, having lost in the final six years before. Nigel Mansell had to wait 13 seasons before he became F1 world champion, having finished runner-up three times, and in baseball the Chicago Cubs overcame the “curse of the billy goat” last year to win their first World Series in 71 years.

Perhaps the best at overcoming sporting hoo-doos however is Andy Murray. His US Open victory in 2012 was the first Grand Slam title for a British male in 76 years, and he himself had made four Grand Slam final appearances without a win before then. He followed it up with the first Wimbledon title in 77 years the following year, and he and his team-mates then won Britain’s first Davis Cup since 1936 in 2015. However, he still faces the challenge of winning the Australian Open, where he has lost in the final five times.

Who knows, Sergio might carry on winning Majors how he’s broken his duck, or he may never win another, but either way, at least he’ll never be remembered as the best player never to win one.