Augusta (United States) (AFP) – It took Sergio Garcia 74 major starts and more than 20 years to win his first major title. It took only a day to get grease stains on his Masters green jacket.
Even now the 38-year-old Spaniard, who defends his first major title this week at Augusta National, breathed a sigh of relief recalling his fear it might never get clean after a next-day photo publicity session in New York.
“I look at my right arm and there’s two big grease stains on it,” Garcia said. “One of the guys from backstage, he must have had some grease on something and when I put my arm around him, it just got on it.
“I’m thinking, ‘My God, I’ve had the jacket for a day and a half and I already have two massive stains on it. What am I going to do?’ We get it off a little bit and then we took it to dry cleaner and they did a great job. But that was tough.”
Even so, it promises to be nothing compared to the challenge of trying to repeat as Masters champion. Only Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo have won in consecutive years.
“It’s just difficult to win. It doesn’t matter if it’s back-to-back or just one,” Garcia said. “It’s just not easy to do it one time, so imagine twice. And back-to-back.
“So it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to give it my best shot and I’m going to try as hard as I can, but it’s not easy to do it.”
Even so, Garcia likes the state of his game against a world-class field.
“Preparation has been good. The receptions I’ve been getting around tees and greens and around the fairways, they’ve been unbelievable,” Garcia said.
“My game is quite solid. It’s just a matter of how I’m going to feel on Thursday, how the nerves are going to be, because I know I’m going to be a little bit nervous.”
Garcia won a playoff over Britain’s Justin Rose after an epic back-nine battle last year, taking an emotional victory on what would have been the birthday of his idol Seve Ballesteros.
“I kept believing. I kept giving myself chances,” Garcia said. “That’s the only thing I can do, and just wait for the right time, and that was last year.
“Now as a Masters champion it’s just a different feeling. It’s unbelievable. “It’s great. I’m enjoying every minute of it.
Garcia wore his green jacket at his wedding reception after marrying wife Angela, to Wimbledon and to Real Madrid’s home stadium, the Bernabeu.
“Our wedding was extremely special,” Garcia said. “Wimbledon was great. The Bernabeu was amazing. So many different spots around the world made it so special to walk around and see the reaction of the people seeing me with the jacket on. So that was amazing.”
– An Azalea to kiss –
Garcia selected a Masters Champions Dinner menu Tuesday of Lobster Rice, his wife’s Tres Leches Cake, tapas and a salad with items from every Masters winner’s homeland.
“It’s such a tremendous honor to sit next to all those amazing champions,” Garcia said. “It’s going to be so emotional.”
Garcia and his wife welcomed a new baby daughter last month, naming her Azalea after Augusta National’s 13th hole. But he might not get notes of encouragement daily from Angela as he did last year.
“She gets to bring our beautiful Azalea to me every morning to make sure that I give her a kiss,” Garcia said. “That’s more than enough.”