Masters co-leader Sergio Garcia ready to change major fortunes

Sergio Garcia 2017 Masters Getty Images

Masters co-leader Sergio Garcia ready to change major fortunes

PGA Tour

Masters co-leader Sergio Garcia ready to change major fortunes

AUGUSTA, Ga. – A lot has changed since Sergio Garcia made his Masters debut in 1999, and earned himself a weekend appearance and T-38 finish as an amateur.

For one – and most noticeably, perhaps – he’s got a few grays in his hair and beard; the 37-year-old Spaniard is certainly not 19 anymore. Many of those grays likely have come from Garcia’s tussles with Augusta National over the years. Many times he’s been in contention at the Masters, only to play himself out of it.

In 2002, he went 68-71-70 before a final-round 75 dropped him from fourth to eighth. He was second after 18 holes a year later before a second-round 78 knocked him out of things early. Nine years later, in 2012, he was a shot off the 36-hole lead, but then followed with a 75. And last year, he fired bookends of 69 and 71, the only problem being he filled those with rounds of 75-81.

“I think it’s the kind of place that if you are trying to fight against it, it’s going to beat you down,” Garcia said. “So you’ve just got to roll with it and realize that sometimes you’re going to get good breaks … and sometimes you’re going to get not-so-good breaks.”

So far in this 81st Masters, the breaks have been almost exclusively good for Garcia, who fired a third-round, 2-under 70 – almost five shots better than his third-round average in 13 previous Saturdays at Augusta – to maintain his share of the lead. He’ll enter Sunday tied with Justin Rose at 6 under.

One such good break Garcia experienced Saturday came at the par-5 13th. With a par-bogey start on the hole this week, Garcia found the right second cut off the tee and then hit what he thought to be a good second shot, only to have it come out “soft” and end up short of the green. The ball stayed up and avoided a watery resting place, though, and Garcia got it up and down for one of his four birdies on the day.

A work of the golf gods? “I don’t know,” Garcia said.

Garcia knows the golf gods aren’t going to gift him his first major title Sunday at Augusta; he’ll have to rely on himself and his own game to earn that elusive achievement. Going back to what has changed with Garcia over the years, he seems to finally firmly believe in his ability to perform on the biggest stages.

After his crushing third-round 75 in 2012, Garcia commented that he was “not good enough” to win majors, and that he should just “play for second or third place.” Now, though, Garcia is older, wiser, engaged to be married, and more prepared to get the job done this time. He’s ready to end that lengthy list of major failures.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to myself,” Garcia said. “… It comes down to me making sure that I keep doing the things that I’ve been doing all week, and you know, just believe that I can do it.”

There is a memorable clip of Garcia from the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah, where he is running and hopping down the fairway after a recovery shot. What does Garcia, who was runner-up to Tiger Woods that year, think about when he sees that clip today?

“I was very skinny and very young,” Garcia said.

Can he still run that fast and jump that high? “I think so,” Garcia said. “I’ve still got a good set of legs.”

Legs that could carry Garcia to a green jacket on Sunday.

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