It was the leap seen around the golf world. Two decades ago, golfer Sergio Garcia burst onto the PGA Tour scene by blindly hitting around a large oak tree at the PGA Championship. With his eyes closed, the teenaged Garcia walloped the shot towards the 16th hole before rushing up the fairway and leaping in the air to see where it landed.
The ball sliced around the tree and perfectly hit the green, keeping Garcia in the mix during the final round at just 19 years old. Garcia ended up finishing second by one stroke to someone named Tiger Woods that day at Medinah Country Club, but his scissor-kick leap and incredible shot announced his talents to the golf world.
Those talents and that iconic shot helped propel Garcia to a 20-year career and his first major championship at the 2017 Masters. Now, Garcia is back at the PGA Championship looking to add another trophy to his case. While the Bethpage Black course is one of the toughest in America, Garcia is ranked fifth among active golfers in average score at the course with at least eight career competitive rounds at Bethpage, giving him the chance to make a deep run. At the tournament this year, Garcia will be wearing a limited-edition Adidas polo inspired by his iconic shot and leap moment from the 1999 tournament. The polo is available here at adidas.com.
Garcia spoke with Men’s Journal ahead of the PGA Tournament about how he’s trained to stay injury free over his career, what it feels like to win a major tournament, and working 20 years with Adidas.
Men’s Journal: Bethpage Black is notoriously known as one of the hardest courses in the United States, but you’ve done well there in the past. How do you feel heading into the PGA Championship?
Sergio Garcia: I’m excited about the challenge and to be back here in New York. This course is a difficult one, but I being familiar with it helps and I’ll use that this week. This is a city that loves sports, so I expect the fans to be out there and enjoying things. I’m excited to go back to Bethpage; it’s a course that I enjoyed in the past and even with how tough it is, it just makes it more exciting for everyone. I’ve played well here, so it would be nice to get a nice performance here—maybe even a win [laughs].
To celebrate working 20 years with Adidas, you’ll be wearing a special polo shirt inspired by your iconic leap from 1999. How does it feel looking back on being part of the brand for 20 years?
You can’t take anything for granted. You look back, and I was 19 when I started and Adidas made a push for me and I was very excited about it. They’re branded as European and me being from Spain, I always loved them, so it was something special for me. You really don’t see it that often these days—a big relationship with a single brand that goes on for this long. It shows me what they think of me and shows me the effort they’ve put in over the years. This is a brand I’ve worn my whole life. I’ve been a huge fan since I was very little and so to be able to wear that brand and do what you love doing is an opportunity that not a lot of people get. I just love playing golf and having Adidas support me in that has been very special. It’s been amazing to see how much Adidas has grown and invested in golf since we started 20 years ago and it feels great the emphasis they’ve put on me and the sport during that time.
You won your first major in 2017 at the Masters. What does it feel like to win a major championship on the PGA Tour?
It’s an incredible feeling and it’s not something everyone gets to go through. It’s a lot harder than people make it look or sound, and it truly is something very special. And coming after all the hard work you put in over the years, it feels like a culmination of all the hard work. I had finished second before at the Open Championship and the PGA, and was third before at the U.S. Open, so to break through at Augusta was incredible.
Twenty years ago you had an iconic shot at the PGA Championship and finished one stroke behind Tiger Woods. What’s it like to reflect on that two decades later as you’re about to start the tournament again?
Thinking about that moment brings a smile to my face. It makes me think about not only about that moment in particular, but the beginning of my career. You’re hoping things are going to go well, but you really don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. Then building on that to where I am now, and fortunately for me, being mostly healthy throughout my career, it means a lot to look back on that moment. I don’t know if I could jump like I did back then [laughs].
— adidas Golf (@adidasGolf) May 13, 2019
How has your training impacted your longevity on the tour and being mostly injury free all this time?
There’s several things that go into it for me. I’ve always been very active and that’s helped me stay fit and agile over the years. I’m a golfer, but I’ve always played several sports and enjoy being active, whether that’s hiking or running or anything like that. It helps me have fun and allows me to enjoy golf more, but it also gives me a little extra fitness that helps when I’m training. I’ve been going 20 straight years, so you learn to focus on strengthening the right parts of your body that you need the most to play at your best.
The golf season is a very long one. What are some ways you’ve learned to train and adjust so that you can get through the season?
I’ve learned when to give my body a rest when it needs it. Sometimes we forget how important giving yourself a break is, especially with the season basically being all year long. You have to listen to your body and realize that when you’re tired, you don’t want to force it, or you could get injured.
A lot of golfers have pushed themselves by doing workouts like football players or other athletes. Has your training evolved like that over the years?
I don’t go crazy on my workouts like some of the guys do now. I feel like sometimes you can kind of overdo it a little bit, and that can cause problems for your swing and your body. Some guys get injured because they’re overworking and they push too much. I’ve tried to keep that balance of training and staying strong, but also knowing when I need to throttle back on things. If you’re tired, or your body isn’t feeling great, it’s okay not to train or go to the gym that extra day or two. It can help in the long run.
What golf course should every man try to play at some point in their life?
Since we’re here for it, Bethpage is a great one. Yes, it’s difficult, but that’s part of the challenge.
Here’s a look at Garcia’s scripting for the tournament: