Photos by Chris Todd
Good things seem to happen when Sergio Garcia has an 8-iron in his hands in big moments.
Late Sunday afternoon, with the sun softly painting his back, Garcia fired an 8-iron from 171 yards to within 3 feet of the hole. He made the birdie putt to win the 2020 Sanderson Farms Championship by one shot over Peter Malnati at the Country Club of Jackson.
In 2017 — at his most recent victory on the PGA Tour — Garcia ripped an 8-iron to within 15 feet of the hole on the Par-5 15th at Augusta National. He made the putt for an eagle and went on to beat Justin Rose in a playoff for the Masters title.
“It was a perfect ending to an amazing week,” said Garcia, the 40-year-0ld from Spain who finished 19-under and putted with his eyes closed all week.
Garcia, who took home a check for $1.118 million with his final round 67, said confidence was not a problem when he needed to birdie the final hole for the win.
“My mind was clear all week. I knew what I wanted to do almost every single shot I hit … I was very confident the whole week,” he said.
Garcia made another remarkable shot down the stretch — a 5-wood to within 4 feet on the Par-5 14th. He made the putt for an eagle to pull even with Malnati, who had finished his round a couple of hours earlier.
This was Garcia’ s first time to play the Sanderson Farms Championship.
“They’ve taken amazing care of us — Joe (Sanderson) and everyone around us,” Garcia said. “I watched this tournament on TV last year and I thought, ‘That looks like a really nice course.’
“Funny enough, the Ryder Cup should have been last week, so I would’ve been in Europe this weekend if things were normal. But everything with (COVID-19) kinda changed my schedule and I’m able to play a few tournaments in the fall.
“It’s really great to be here, to play the way I did, to believe in myself the way I did.”
Malnati fired a 63 to give himself a chance. He was on the practice range, loosening up in case of a playoff, when Garcia stuck the 8-iron shot next to the hole.
All Malnati could do was laugh.
““This game is my dream job and I get to do it every day,” he said. “It’s so hard and the competition out here is so strong and you fail so much. To have a day like today … I feel like I won the tournament.”
Malnati did win the Sanderson Farms title — in 2015, his only PGA Tour victory. But Malnati left Jackson with a huge confidence boost and $719,400 — or $158,00 more than he earned all of last season.