CASTELLON, Spain – Sergio Garcia returns from a complete two-month break with a renewed appetite for tournament golf at his hometown Castello Masters starting Thursday.
A combination of burnout and a broken heart after the end of his relationship with Greg Norman’s daughter, Morgan Leigh, saw the 30-year-old Garcia slip to 68th in the world from a career-high second in March last year.
However, Garcia has dusted off his clubs to play in the European Tour event he promotes in his hometown near Valencia in eastern Spain. His luxury hillside villa overlooks the 7,111-yard course at Club de Campo del Mediterraneo, where he won two years ago.
“I made the decision to stop between The Players and the U.S. Open as I had lost my motivation and felt drained,” Garcia said. “I needed a break because I had lost the desire to play, and practicing had become an obligation.
“Since turning pro 12 years ago I have not had a proper break – even when you take two weeks out during the season you are practicing,” Garcia added. “Now, on the contrary, I feel full of energy again and actually enjoy practicing. I have set myself new goals. I hope to return gradually to where I should be and perform to my full potential, that is to be world No. 1.”
For the first time in his career, Garcia has sought help with the mental side of his game, using sophrology, a personal development program developed in Switzerland in the 1960s to reduce stress and promote physical and mental well-being.
“When I was down on myself I had many, many questions, but now answers,” he said. “I know more about myself and feel able to answer my own questions. I am looking forward to playing again and hope I have got my head right.”
The four days in Castellon will also ask questions of his fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal, who is making only his second tournament start of the year because of his continuing health problems. Olazabal has been dealing with chronic rheumatism.
He missed the cut when he played in the French Open at the beginning of July, but insisted, “I am feeling better, though not 100 percent well. I am still in pain and need to go on improving in order to perform full level. It’s a slow process.
“I cannot practice as I would,” Olazabal said. “My daily limit is hitting 130 balls and a bit of short-game work. But I actually played four rounds in a row last week without a problem.
“That’s why I am here. I feel definitely better now than in the French Open.”
One Spaniard missing the event is Carlos Rodiles. He is unlikely to play again this year after tearing ligaments in his left knee Tuesday while playing soccer in a charity match.