By Andrew Both
(Reuters) - Sergio Garcia’s victory at the U.S. Masters on Sunday was received with delight throughout the golf world, but it seems unlikely to lead to a subsequent flood of major titles for the Spaniard.
That is not to say 37-year-old Garcia will fail to add to his first major win, but the best players are too evenly matched in the post-Tiger Woods era to realistically expect him to suddenly run up his major tally in his late 30s.
The top 20 or so players are all eminently capable of winning when in top form. Woods may have been capable of winning with his "B" game, but no-one else is, not even current number one Dustin Johnson.
Since Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth combined to win four consecutive majors at the end of 2014 and start of 2015, seven players have shared the spoils in the past seven majors, much as it used to be before Woods.
Garcia and Masters runner-up Justin Rose were ranked 11th and 14th respectively in the world last week, but it was hardly a surprise they ended up separating themselves from the field, especially in the absence of Johnson, who pulled out at the last minute with a back injury.
A little luck is often required to win, and if Rose’s seven-foot birdie putt at the 72nd hole had toppled in instead of grazing the cup, the Englishman probably would be celebrating getting halfway to the career grand slam, after winning the 2013 U.S. Open.
Indeed, Garcia’s victory hardly elevated him to the top echelon of favourites in betting for the next major, the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin in June.
Betting website Centrebet on Monday had Dustin Johnson a 7/1 favourite, followed at 8/1 by McIlroy and Jason Day, with Jordan Spieth at 9/1.
Garcia was 33/1, similar to his pre-Masters odds.
But he will not care as he celebrates an occasion that he thought might never come. He was not the only one.
Former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley struggled to retain his composure during the live television commentary on Sky Sports.
“It was kind of difficult,” McGinley said on Golf Channel on Monday. “To be honest I had a big lump in my throat.
“I was so happy for him I can’t tell you how happy. I’ve been through so much with him. I felt his pain (after previous near-misses). He’s an emotional person. I know how much it hurts him.”
It seemed as though most of the gallery at Augusta felt the same way, as the Garcia who made a rude hand gesture to a spectator who heckled him at the 2002 U.S. Open was transformed into an almost beloved figure who seemed to feed off the crowd’s affection.
"Sergio often feels like he's not supported the way he would like to be here in America," said the vanquished Rose.
"It was encouraging to see the crowd get behind him. I think they realised that he paid his dues, he's been close so many times and they probably were pulling for him to pull through on this occasion."
McGinley, meanwhile, admitted that he was starting to wonder whether Garcia would ever close the deal.
“I think his career deserved a major and we were all worried his career wasn’t going to end with one,” the Irishman said.
“And to see it be done on such a grand stage, in such an impressive way, anyone who knows Sergio would have felt the same.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Larry Fine)