Hong Kong—Sergio Garcia wasted no time in returning to the world’s top 50 after dropping out for only the second time since 1999 last week.
One of only five players in history to have spent more than 1,000 weeks ranked at 50 or better, the Spaniard’s emotional victory at the Sanderson Farms Championship ensured he will extend that tally as he moved back to 38th place from 51st.
Garcia dedicated the win to his family, who have been tragically affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I lost two uncles because of Covid. It has been tough for my dad. But this one was for him,” the 40-year-old said.
The win was a fitting reward for the 2017 Masters champion’s unrivalled consistency, and his unusual “eyes closed” putting style.
Garcia is the only player to record at least one victory on either the US PGA or European Tour in every calendar year since 2010.
World number one Dustin Johnson has won in every PGA Tour season over the same period, but the wrap-around nature of the calendar means his only two “2014 season” victories both came in late 2013.
Garcia has also now won in four different decades. His first victory was as a 19-year-old at the 1999 Irish Open and he made his Ryder Cup debut at Brookline later that year.
Lawrie signs off
Two weeks after Garcia won his maiden event at Druids Glen in Ireland back in 1999, an unheralded Scot enjoyed his greatest moment in the Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Paul Lawrie beat Justin Leonard and Jan van de Velde in a playoff after the Frenchman’s infamous meltdown on the 72nd hole.
Lawrie, who turned pro in 1986, was never perturbed that his sole major victory was overshadowed by Van de Velde’s socks-off, water-wading antics that blew a three-shot lead with one to play.
And so it seemed in keeping with the Scot’s low-key character that last week the 51-year-old announced his retirement from the European Tour during the Scottish Open with few media present, no fans and very little fanfare.
“To have played 620 events is not a bad innings, considering I turned pro with a five handicap and didn’t think I’d play any,” he told IrishGolfer.ie.
“I haven’t been a great player, but I’ve been decent and that’s all you can ask for.”
Aaron Rai: a glove story
England’s Aaron Rai turned heads when he won his first European Tour event in his rookie year at a rain-sodden 2018 Hong Kong Open sporting two gloves, one on each hand, instead of the usual golfer’s one.
But the quirk has remained and it helped him have the edge—again in filthy weather conditions—as he took his second tour win at the Scottish Open at the weekend in a playoff from Tommy Fleetwood.
The extra grip obviously came in handy, as it did in Hong Kong two years ago, where among the luminaries he vanquished in the final round were Fleetwood, Garcia and runner-up Matt Fitzpatrick.
Rai explained at the time that his unusual attire was a longstanding habit he just couldn’t break.
“It started when I was eight years old,” he said. “I just happened to be given these two gloves... and I got into the habit of wearing them.
“Then, a few weeks down the line, my dad forgot to put the two gloves in the bag so I had to play with one. It was terrible. I couldn’t play, I couldn’t feel the grip, so I’ve always stuck with the two gloves ever since.”
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