My first time seeing Sergio Garcia play golf was at the 1998 US Amateur at Oak Hill. Earlier in the year the then-18-year-old Spaniard had won the British Amateur, and he arrived in upstate New York with the hope of becoming just the fifth player to win both titles in the same calendar year. After beating defending champion Matt Kuchar in the quarter-finals, Garcia’s bid ended at the hands of 44-year-old Tom McKnight in the semis.
Nineteen years later, I was at Augusta National when he won the Masters, capturing the Major title that had eluded him during his professional career.
In between, I was there for Long Island boo-birds counting waggles at Bethpage, his blaming the golf gods at Carnoustie and the resignation that a Major was likely never to come.
I say all this as a way of acknowledging that Sergio Garcia has been a golfer of considerable note for more than two decades, a window of time that neatly, and coincidentally, overlapped with my days at Golf Digest. In good times and bad, Garcia’s been a constant. So it was, then, that this bit of information hit me harder than I thought when it was revealed overnight.
For the first time since the WGC–Bridgestone Invitational in August 2011, Garcia found himself outside the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking, sitting at 51st.
This is so because Garcia, ranked 48th in the world ranking last week, didn’t play in either the PGA Tour or European Tour event and was passed by Mackenzie Hughes, Jason Kokrak and Matt Wallace when the numbers were crunched Monday night into Tuesday morning. This is also so because since that Masters win in 2017, Garcia’s trademark consistency has waned; this past August, for the first time since its creation in 2007, Garcia failed to reach the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup postseason.
It’s pretty amazing to think that Garcia has been in the top 50 that long (although Phil Mickelson and his 26-year streak dwarfs it). One of social media’s foremost experts on the world ranking, Nosferatu (@VC606) noted that the streak actually could be longer.
Garcia’s fall from the top 50 comes after similar tumbles recently from other notables: Mickelson last October (first time since 1993), Jordan Spieth in January (first time since 2013) and Jason Day in June (first time since 2009). As my colleague Shane Ryan noted, the symbiotic relationship between the world ranking and exemptions into golf’s premier events makes jumping back into the top 50 a tougher climb than falling out; only Day has managed to get back inside the number.
Garcia, of course, could do the same. He fell as low as 82nd during his fallow period in early 2011 before bouncing back inside the top 50 with back-to-back European Tour wins. And he’s playing this week at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Here’s hoping this was all just a one-week blip.