In days of yore a strapping young Spaniard named Sergio Garcia was the enigmatic challenger to the still young Tiger Woods. With a stride that reminded some of his beloved countryman Seve Ballesteros, Garcia ascended from nowhere to nearly borrow Tiger’s crown way back at the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah — where Garcia’s youthful running fairway leap to get a better vantage for his approach shot’s result imprinted itself in the minds of golf fans. Garcia continued to ascend the golf ranks, but he has never worn Woods’ crown in all the intervening years. For all his success — and there has been a great deal of it — Garcia remains majorless, a future no one could have predicted in 1999.
Oh, has he been close. The British Open was his to win in 2007 — but the fates swept in and took it from him. Now with Woods’ crown being routinely shared among Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, Garcia is a reluctant part of golf’s old guard. Yet he still possesses that youthful fire — and the complete game that’s the envy of many of his peers. The 36-year-old Garcia just won the AT&T Byron Nelson championship in Texas against golf’s best competition. The 2016 U.S. Open is just weeks away — being held this year at one of the toughest of all Open venues, Oakmont Country Club. Garcia will be a contender. Is it finally — finally — his time? Garcia is ranked #12 in the world. Tiger Woods, BTW, is ranked #535.