Gar­cia at Bri­tish Open this week­end, his wed­ding next

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Doug Fer­gu­son

SOUTHPORT, ENG­LAND» Ser­gio Gar­cia won’t be wear­ing his green jacket from Au­gusta Na­tional at his wed­ding.

What about pour­ing cham­pagne from a claret jug?

Gar­cia doesn’t have one yet, though he loves the thought of such pos­si­bil­i­ties, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing that only four months ago, the 36-year-old Spa­niard was learn­ing to ac­cept his ca­reer might end without a ma­jor. Now he is a Masters cham­pion who is soak­ing up a year of cel­e­bra­tion.

He ar­rived at Royal Birk­dale with two big events on the hori­zon. First up is the Bri­tish Open, the ma­jor where he has had his most con­sis­tent suc­cess with 10 top10 fin­ishes, in­clud­ing the last three in a row. And then he’s off to Texas for his mar­riage July 29 to An­gela Akins. For Gar­cia, it’s one ma­jor at a time. His mind is on Royal Birk­dale, tra­di­tion­ally one of the tough­est links cour­ses in Eng­land.

“It’s go­ing to be where it has to be this week,” Gar­cia said. “An­gela has been do­ing a great job of get­ting ev­ery­thing ready for the wed­ding, and ob­vi­ously, we’re re­ally ex­cited for next week. But we have some­thing that we’re also ex­tremely ex­cited about this week. And we want to be here giv­ing ev­ery­thing we have, and hope­fully with a chance on Sun­day.”

Gar­cia wants what Hen­rik Sten­son had to re­turn Mon­day.

The cham­pion re­turn­ing the claret jug used to be a mere for­mal­ity. The Royal & An­cient turned it into a show Mon­day, with the Bri­tish Open en­cour­ag­ing 500 fans to fill the grand­stand around the first tee to wit­ness the oc­ca­sion. And now it’s up for grabs again. Sten­son is the de­fend­ing cham­pion. Padraig Har­ring­ton feels like one con­sid­ered he is the last player to win the Bri­tish Open at Royal Birk­dale. In 2008, he started the week with an in­jury and ended it with a four-shot vic­tory over Ian Poul­ter to be­come Europe’s first back-to­back Bri­tish Open cham­pion in more than a cen­tury.

“I en­joy the week be­cause I’m not quite de­fend­ing, but I’m com­ing back here and mak­ing the most of it,” Har­ring­ton said. “Be­cause these good feel­ings don’t come around that of­ten.”

Gar­cia would have been a log­i­cal choice to chal­lenge on just about any links.

This is the ma­jor he grew up watch­ing in Spain — he was 8 when Seve Balles­teros won his third Bri­tish Open in 1988 at St. An­drews.

Stu­art Franklin, Getty Images

Ser­gio Gar­cia of Spain an­swers some ques­tions from the me­dia in the run-up to the Bri­tish Open, which be­gins Thurs­day.

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