(Reuters) – Masters champion Sergio Garcia enjoyed a four-week celebration after his Augusta triumph highlighted by the ceremonial kick-off at El Clasico in Madrid, but he gets back to business on Thursday at The Players Championship.
The Spaniard has had his share of success at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Florida in a tournament he has won, but where he also endured one of his worst collapses.
Garcia was very relaxed during his press conference on Wednesday, befitting someone who finally shed the label of best player not to have won a major when he beat Justin Rose in a Masters playoff 31 days ago.
“So many great things have happened since Sunday at Augusta,” Garcia told reporters.
“But for me, what has meant the most (is) to see the reaction from the players towards me and how happy — other than a couple — how happy they all have been.
“They’ve been so happy for me to get my first major and win the Masters. It shows me how much my fellow players respect me and care about me. It’s something that you can’t really fake, so that’s awesome.”
Garcia, a lifelong Real Madrid fan, said being introduced to the crowd at the Bernabeu had been the highlight of his break.
“To walk onto what I think is the best soccer stadium in the world … and in El Clasico against Barcelona, which is probably the biggest football game that exists in this world, and to have 90,000 people chanting your name, that was extremely special.”
But it is back to work now at a tournament many consider the most prestigious outside the four majors.
Garcia won in 2008, but five years later had an epic meltdown, tied for the lead with Tiger Woods with two holes left, before firing three balls into the water over the final two holes.
“I’ve been in contention here so many times,” said Garcia, who twice has finished runner-up. “I love the golf course, and if I manage to play well, I should have a chance on Sunday.”
He is also looking forward to being introduced on the first tee as Masters champion.
“I’m excited about it. I’m not going to lie to you. I’m sure a lot of things will go through my mind about that week.”
The week where he finally closed the deal and put to rest the question he hated answering: Why had he not won a major?
“I said it throughout my whole career, the only thing I could do was keep putting myself in that situation and wait for the right time to get it.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Larry Fine)