The heartbeat of the team, Rory McIlroy called him, and when Sergio Garcia reviewed what made the Ryder Cup special, it was clear why he revels in this competition so much. He’s lonely.
He admitted as much at Le Golf National on Wednesday. ‘Golf is such a lonely game throughout the whole year,’ Garcia said.
‘Sometimes it is nice to have a friend next to you who is cheering for you, and not just one, but another 10 doing the same. It definitely feels like it helps me.
Sergio Garcia celebrates after holing a putt during a Ryder Cup practice round on Wednesday
Garcia has admitted that golf is a ‘lonely’ game as he looks forward to playing with a partner
‘I like to have someone around. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always enjoyed foursomes and fourballs. To have someone that you can put your arm around and cheer yourself on.
‘It’s a bit of both: I get inspired and hopefully I inspire them, make them feel more comfortable, make them enjoy it a little more. It’s probably one of the reasons I’ve been fairly successful with so many different partnerships in Ryder Cups.
‘I’m probably close to being the Ryder Cup player with the most partnerships, and I’ve been able to do well with pretty much all of them.’
Sports people aren’t typically the best with statistics, but the numbers back up Garcia. Of the top eight European Ryder Cup partnerships, he is involved in two, and in three of the top 15.
In all, he has had 10 different partners, and unless he is paired with Rory McIlroy or Paul Casey that number is set to rise this week.
Of the 10, Garcia has a winning record with five, halves with two, and losses overall with three. In those losing records, however, are one-off pairings with Miguel Angel Jimenez and Nicolas Colsaerts.
Garcia has experienced huge success in the Ryder Cup, last lifting it at Gleneagles in 2014
Indeed, his two losses with Martin Kaymer are the most he has suffered with any single partner: just seven reverses in 29 pairs matches.
It is not the same for Garcia on his own. Eight singles matches, three wins, four defeats.
Undoubtedly, Garcia extracts most from the Ryder Cup as a team golfer, hence captain Thomas Bjorn’s decision to include him, despite recent struggles on the circuit.
Garcia has missed the cut in all four majors this year and only finished top 10 in four events. He was 24th in European Tour points, 13th in World Tour points, and his claim to be here is arguably the flimsiest of any of the European team.
Yet, one gets the feeling he would be many of his contemporaries first pick. All bought enthusiastically into the idea that their group would be weaker, indeed could not be the same, without Garcia, no matter his recent issues.
The 38-year-old failed to make the cut at any of this year’s majors and only earned four top 10s
It is plain that Bjorn’s decision to include Garcia as one of his captain’s selections was not considered controversial within the team room.
Laymen may feel that form trumps all; Europe’s golfers just want the counsel and enthusiasm of the player Jon Rahm spoke of as the glue holding the unit together.
Rahm, a fellow Spaniard even if he sounds as if he should be on the opposing team, may yet be Garcia’s newest Ryder Cup partner at some time over the first two days. It seems whoever gets that nod will be considered a lucky guy.
‘He loves the event,’ Rahm said. ‘He knows what it is like, he knows how well he performs and he acts in a great way. His demeanour, his energy is so positive – it’s very contagious.
‘It’s so much fun to be around a person like him because he gets everybody energetic, as he is. He brings everybody together. He’s a great golfer, but also a special man and that’s one of the main reasons he’s here.
Garcia shakes hands with Justin Rose as he gears up for the ninth Ryder Cup of his career
‘Look, it’s always been a dream of mine to share the stage with Sergio. He’s been in my shoes. I’m 23, I’m the youngest on our team by a couple of years, but he played the Ryder Cup when he was a teenager, so he was even younger than I was.
‘I think he understands me more than anybody else. We’re Spanish, we’re both fiery players. Whether we play together or not, he’s going to be able to help me more than anybody in the world.’
‘Everyone loves Sergio,’ added McIlroy. ‘He’s been the heartbeat of our team, a constant, and when I think of our Ryder Cup successes, it’s about continuity and bringing the same mind-set each year.
‘He’s great, he’s fun-loving and he never lets the environment get too serious. I think that’s one of the big things about the Europe over the years – we leave our egos at the door.
‘The more you can keep that atmosphere in the team room, the better, and Sergio is great at it and great at just bringing the dynamic to everyone else.’
Of course, this being the Ryder Cup, the brilliance or otherwise of Bjorn’s picks will be viewed through the lens of Sunday’s scoreboard.
The 2017 Masters champion was picked by captain Thomas Bjorn despite his recent poor form
If Garcia has been unable to shake off his mediocre 2018, and Europe have lost, no amount of bounciness in the team room will compensate for that call. The case for experience will rest, defeated, and it will always be presumed that Europe would have fared better had the captain looked to form.
Yet, undoubtedly, team golf has a way of revitalising Garcia in a way a long, lonely, march around 18 holes cannot.
This is the first Ryder Cup he will play as a major winner, remember. The rest, all those wins, all those European dream teams, have been achieved while fighting a series of problems, from the gripping yips to Major meltdowns.
There is something about this tournament that brings the best from him. Maybe he just likes company.