By Kent Gray at Jumeirah Golf Estates
The European Tour has crunched the numbers, based on “simulations, statistics, form and history” at the DP World Tour Championship, and give Sergio Garcia a whopping three percent chance of winning the Race to Dubai title come Sunday. The 37-year-old Spaniard, one of only three contenders for the season-long points title, is slightly more pessimistic.
“You know, to be totally honest, I see a two percent chance of me winning The Race to Dubai, but I’m fine with it. I can live with it. It’s been a great year, and that’s not going to change,” said Garcia who was second into the interview room at Jumeirah Golf Estates Tuesday that strangely won’t welcome the injured Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson this week.
The equation is simple for Garica to be crowned European No.1, if not easily achieved. He must win at JGE but even then he needs current Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood to finish outside the top 20 and second-placed Justin Rose worse than solo fourth. For the record Fleetwood, who takes a 256,737 point lead over Rose into the final 72 holes of the season, is rated a 73 percent chance of winning the moneylist, while Rose’s number is 23 percent.
It’s not like Garcia doesn’t have the form to take care of his part of the bargain after winning the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, his breakthrough major at The Masters and his home Valderrama Masters hosted by his very own foundation. But it is tough that three big wins leaves him little more than mathematical chance.
“Yeah, unfortunately that’s not enough. Obviously it’s very difficult to become The Race to Dubai winner, but it doesn’t mean that we’re not going to give everything we have this week and see where we end up.”
Garcia has also been crunching his own numbers this week as he puts Callaway swag in his bag for first time in competition after his 15-year association with TaylorMade bizarrely ended in divorce last month with the Spaniard seemingly at the peak of his powers.
So why Sergio, and especially in your case after a career year, do players decide to change manufacturers when things seem to be going so, well, swimmingly?
“Well, it wasn’t only my decision. So obviously, you know, spent 15 years with TaylorMade, but unfortunately things come to an end.
“I guess all companies change, and the politics with TaylorMade having changed now after leaving Adidas. We couldn’t come to an agreement. I understand that it’s also difficult when you have so many top players, to keep all of them. You know, unfortunately we were in that package.
“I’m looking for another great company to join with and be excited, and more than anything, see excitement on their faces, not only on mine. Obviously I’m trying some Callaway stuff, and what I’ve been trying feels great. It’s a great company. So it’s not like I’m going to a company that is unknown or anything like that.
“They are willing to work really hard for me, and that also means a lot.”
Enough it seems to be close to signing on a long-term deal. “Not yet,” Garcia said when asked if the deal was official. “But obviously it’s kind of — at the moment, it the company that is in front of the other ones.”
Garcia said the biggest challenge of changing equipment was getting use to a new ball after using the TaylorMade TP5 for so long. But he insists he “doesn’t see any major changes” heading into the week.
“You know, what we’ve been testing, the numbers have been really good with the balls that Callaway has brought to me. Now it’s just a matter of trying it on the golf course and trying it on tournament play, and seeing how it reacts and seeing how it feels. Then if there’s any changes that need to be made, then we have time in the off-season to get it sorted out. Hopefully we won’t have to.”
As well as the new sticks and sphere, Garcia has to overcame relatively average form at JGE. He’s played six of the eight DP World Tour Championships this far but never bettered his T7 in the inaugural championship in 2009. His only other top-10 (T-9) came in 2011 and he was T-19 last year. It’s strange for a player who generally hits it long and straight.
“I guess it’s probably not one of my favourite golf courses that we play all year, so that probably doesn’t help on my behalf. But it doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t be able to do well.
“Obviously I’ve had some good weeks here, but I’ve had weeks as well [that weren’t as good] as I probably should have. But you know, we’ll try to make that happen this week.
“The course is looking good. A couple of the fairways are looking better than the last few years. The greens are nice. They are rolling nicely. They are not too firm at the moment but the course, a couple new lines [to consider]. I think they have narrowed a lot of the fairways from last year.
“So a couple of the spots where you used to be in the fairway, now it’s rough. So you have to be careful with that because it’s easy to forget. But other than that, it’s good.”
So to, it seems is Sergio. His odds mightn’t be great, but with a shiny new sticks, a Green Jacket in his closet, a baby on the way, the newly wed has nothing to lose and maybe something personal to prove.
It must be the equipment, Sergio. TaylorMade clearly doesn’t work here for you. “Hopefully Callaway does,” Garcia said to laughter.