Stars of 2017 - Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia has been one of the leading names in golf for the best part of two decades but 2017 has proven to be the best year of his superb career to date by far.
The Spaniard's stall was set out as early as the desert swing back in February as he landed his 12th European Tour title at the Dubai Desert Classic, where he held off the challenge of fellow star draw Henrik Stenson to win for the first time in over three years on the European Tour.
A handful of unremarkable results followed for Garcia but this was just the calm before the storm. At Augusta National in early April Sergio was to finally become one of the most deserving first-time major winners ever.
An understated but crucially under-par opening round of 71 saw Sergio make a solid start upon which he built superbly. With a second round 69 he took a share of the halfway lead along with Rickie Fowler, Charley Hoffman and Thomas Pieters and further consolidation in the form of a third round 70 saw him retain a share of the lead with one round to go.
Thru 54 holes Garcia's company at the top of the leader board was down to one fellow competitor in the shape of Justin Rose, who made waves on 'moving day' with a stunning 67. The man who in 2015 (along with Phil Mickelson) became the lowest scoring runner-up in the history of the Masters had the momentum going into the final 18 holes and so it proved as he opened up an early two-shot lead over the Spaniard.
'Rose Blooms at Augusta National' was penciled into journalist's notepads worldwide at this stage but an even greater story was about to be written. A stunning eagle at the 15th hole saw Sergio join Rose at nine-under-par and by this point it was a two-horse race.
At 16 Rose hit back with a birdie of his own to get his nose out in front but a bogey would follow at 17 leveling things once more. Pars would follow for both at the last, with first Rose and then Garcia missing golden chances for a birdie that would have made the other fittingly green with envy.
For an ashen-faced Sergio Garcia this missed opportunity proved to be only a dress rehearsal. At the first playoff hole Rose faltered and Sergio avenged his missed birdie putt at the 72nd hole with the stroke of his career, when two would have been enough, at the 73rd. The best player never to win a major no more. Sergio Garcia was and still is the proud owner of a green jacket. It wasn't just a dream.
As if victory at the Masters and marriage to Angela Akins Garcia in July wasn't enough for one year, the dreams kept coming for Sergio in 2017. Fast forward to October and he was at it again. In front of a home crowd at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where he was on hosting duty, he produced another stellar display to see off the strong challenge of Joost Luiten and lift the trophy for a second time.
In 2012 Sergio Garcia famously said that he didn't feel capable of winning a major after a disappointing round at Augusta National, the scene now of his finest hour as a professional golfer. He isn't exactly famed for his optimism but even the greatest pessimist or realist in the world would find it hard to seek out the negatives in a year that has seen him finally win a major, get married, win twice elsewhere and find out that he is soon to become a father for the first time.
Happiness off the course seems to have been the key for Sergio in 2017 and with life going swimmingly at the moment who would rule out him landing a second major in 2018?