AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) Sergio Garcia peeled back the blanket and leaned over for another peek at his 3-week-old daughter, sound asleep against her mother’s chest. As his wife chatted with friends, he walked back over to take a purse that dangled from her arm, and then a shopping bag at her feet.
He was much a doting father and husband as he was the Masters champion, and that was only fitting Sunday.
The mood is light the day before Masters week officially begins. It feels more like a day of family and celebration, enhanced by the 60 children moving out from the driving range to the chipping area to the 18th green for the Drive, Chip and Putt competition that has become a tradition since it began five years ago.
Garcia was a big part of that, too.
He became the first defending champion to attend the reception Saturday night. One girl was asked for her best Garcia impersonation from his victory last year, and she crouched, clenched her fists and pumped both arms. According to those in attendance, Garcia came on stage and showed the real thing.
Garcia later went out for a practice round with his father, Victor, but not before a big Spanish celebration.
The large group next to the outdoor dining area between the clubhouse and the putting green included Garcia’s parents, his wife’s parents, two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal and Jon Rahm, who hopes to become the fourth Spaniard in a green jacket.
After speaking in English and Spanish to European Tour television, Rahm said he had to leave.
“I’m going wherever he goes,” he said, nodding to where Garcia was standing, except that he was referring to Olazabal.
Rahm recalled going to a Spanish event five years ago ahead of the World Amateur Team Championship to ask Olazabal what parts of his game needed work. Olazabal told him to concentrate on his chipping and putting.
“He said, `Do this, do that.’ So I did this, I did that. And I won,” Rahm said, smiling before he added, “So I need to listen to this man.”
There were Masters champions all over Augusta National on Sunday, several of them presenting trophies to the various age groups of winners. Garcia, Adam Scott, Nick Faldo, Mark O’Meara, Gary Player, Ben Crenshaw and Bubba Watson were among those posing with the kids.
Faldo and Watson share one peculiar thing in common at the Masters – multiple victories, no top 10s except for when they win. It goes against so much evidence that Masters champions have a knack for playing well.
Bernhard Langer was in the mix two years ago when he was 58. Fred Couples seems to play well no matter how bad his back is treating him. Tiger Woods has never missed the cut at the Masters, and even in his last full season before multiple back surgeries, his tie for 17th was his best result of the year.
“I have no idea how the formula works,” Faldo said, though he wasn’t the least bit bothered. “My top 10s were very good top 10s.”
Watson won in 2012 and 2014, and in between he figured he could at least finish in the top 10.
“I was right around 10th,” Watson said. “And then I made a 10 on No. 12. I made a 20-footer for a 10.”
Woods was not expected until Monday, and in some respects, that’s when this Masters might really come to life. Most of the best players in the world already have won this year – Dustin Johnson, Rahm, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Garcia – and that’s been the case in recent years going into Augusta National.
Woods hasn’t won, but he’s playing well, and that almost feels like a victory considering his four back surgeries.
“Tiger coming back is better than just playing,” Faldo said. “He’s going to threaten. I think he’s ahead of schedule.”