Spain’s Sergio Garcia, the reigning Masters Champion, has been named the Hilton European Tour Golfer of the Year for 2017, receiving the prestigious annual award for the first time.
Garcia enjoyed a phenomenal 12 months on the global stage, winning three times on the European Tour, including an emotional first Major Championship at Augusta National in April. The 37 year old defeated his Ryder Cup team-mate Justin Rose in a play-off to become the third Spaniard to claim the famous Green Jacket, following in the footsteps of his compatriots Seve Ballesteros and José María Olazábal.
Fittingly, Garcia’s triumph came on the day the legendary Ballesteros would have turned 60, and in recognition of his achievements throughout 2017, a panel consisting of members of the golfing media voted him as winner of the Hilton European Tour Golfer of the Year award for 2017, an award Ballesteros won on three occasions – in 1986, 1988 and 1991.
“This is an amazing honour,” said Garcia, whose year of celebration also included marrying his fiancée Angela Akins in July. “I think both on and off the golf course it has been a unique and unbelievable year, and one that I will definitely remember my whole life.
“I am so happy to receive this award, and to be named the Hilton European Tour Golfer of the Year, against the calibre of players that were in contention is incredible. Tommy, Justin, Tyrrell and Jon are all amazing players, and all had unbelievable years themselves.
“With the five of us filling the top five places in the Race to Dubai, it shows the real strength of the European Tour, and European players in particular, and hopefully we will keep that going for next September in Paris.”
Garcia’s 2017 European Tour campaign got off to the perfect start with a wire-to-wire victory in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February – his first European Tour title in three seasons. He finished three shots clear of the 2016 Open Champion and Race to Dubai Number One Henrik Stenson, succeeding Englishman Danny Willett as champion at the Emirates Club.
Remarkably, two months later Willett presented Garcia with the Green Jacket, as the Spaniard became the 26th European Tour member to win a Major Championship, fulfilling the raw potential he showed when finishing runner-up in the US PGA Championship in 1999, the year he won the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award.
In total, it took him 74 attempts to eventually claim the Major Championship his talent so richly deserved, having previously recorded 22 top ten finishes, but it was certainly worth the wait, as he prevailed in an unforgettable battle with Englishman Rose at Augusta National.
The pair shared the lead after the third round and produced a final day which will go down in Masters folklore, trading blow after blow for 18 holes as they carded matching closing rounds of 69.
Having endured his share of heartache across the years, it was finally Garcia’s time, as Rose found the pine straw on the first extra hole and then missed his par effort, before the Spaniard rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt for an emotional victory.
It was Garcia’s 13th European Tour title, but that number was far from unlucky, as he completed an outstanding season when he went on to lift his third title of 2017 on home soil in October with victory in the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, an event hosted by his own Foundation.
Garcia was awarded Honorary Life Membership of the European Tour, as well as of Real Club Valderrama, during the tournament week and ended it with the trophy, as he continued his love affair with one of Europe’s top golf courses – by claiming a one stroke victory over Dutchman Joost Luiten after another epic final round duel.
Shrugging off the pressure of hosting his own event and playing on home soil for the first time since his Major breakthrough, Garcia was methodical in all aspects of his game, closing with a final round 67 for a 12 under par total of 272 and his sixth European Tour win in total on Spanish soil.
He finished the year in fourth position in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex, with a runner-up finish in the BMW International Open in June and a tie for fourth in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai also contributing to his superb individual season.
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of The European Tour, said: “Sergio is a wonderful ambassador for our game and an incredible talent, so it was no surprise his victory in the Masters Tournament proved so popular with golf fans around the world.
“That alone was a remarkable achievement, but to also win two other prestigious titles in 2017, including his home tournament at Valderrama, makes it a simply sensational season, and he is a thoroughly deserving winner of the Hilton European Tour Golfer of the Year award.”
Panel member Iain Carter, BBC golf correspondent and Chairman of the Association of Golf Writers, said: “There were brilliant performances throughout the year from European Tour players – most notably from Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose who pushed him so close in such a dramatic end to the season.
“However, Sergio Garcia had the season of his life, which is saying a lot given the glittering nature of his long career. No other player in consideration matched his tally of three wins and, of course, one of those was the Masters. It was a hugely popular triumph.
“Quite simply, all of his rivals would have swapped their results for his in 2017 if they were given the choice. For this reason, the Spaniard is a thoroughly deserving winner of the award, despite the substantial merits of the other leading contenders.”