Much Maligned Mr. Garcia Wins the Players and Praise

Let's face it, in recent years, many golf journalists... and quite a few golf bloggers... have made Sergio bashing something of a cottage industry. And the sultry Spaniard has often made their job easy. His erratic putting, combined with a tempestuous attitude, and frequent outbursts of offensive behavior, have assured him the spot of golf villain over the past couple of years.

Well, it looks like heir apparent Rory Sabatini, is going to have to step into that role on a full time basis now. Because Sergio is no longer available. With his win at Sawgrass yesterday he effectively walked out on the villain job.

Not only is has his putting been transformed, but his demeanor suddenly seems mature...wise, even. His legendary whiny arrogance, has been replaced by charming self-effacing humor. El Niño does not seem like a kid any more. In fact, at the post tournament press conference he admitted that though he "played like a kid again" this year at Sawgrass, he often "felt like an old man".

Of course, along with Sergio's own attitudinal change and his painstakingly regained putting prowess, has come a corresponding wave of warmth from the very journalists and bloggers who not long ago loved to hate him. Last night on the Golf Channel's Live from the Players, the crew was practically gushing. From the spit gate incident to the surly British Open excuse-making-blame-game, it's all been forgiven and forgotten. Everyone seems to be rejoicing in Sergio's breakthrough win. And that's understandable because most golf writers, despite appearances to the contrary, really wanted Sergio to emerge from his winless purgatory and live up to his amazing potential. And now, it seems he has, and like parents whose child has come through a tough adolescence, we're all proud of him and just hoping he stays on track.

* Photo, AFP