Sergio GarciaIn so many ways, Sergio Garcia’s 13-year career as a world-class player provides golf fans with spectacular, memorable footage for a highlight film, but with equal parts failure, because with so much raw talent he consistently fails to close the deal when it matters most. Champions are rarely produced by accident, and with seven measly PGA Tour wins, 22 worldwide, and no majors, Sergio Garcia lacks the superstar label.

We first saw a phenomenal 19-year old teenage rookie nicknamed El Nino, burst onto the world golf stage, chasing Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship. After swatting a shot from behind a tree at Medinah’s 16th hole, Garcia joyfully skipped up the fairway hill to see the end result. He stormed into the thick of five Ryder Cup matches with seemingly endless enthusiasm. And, always wanting to be the star, Garcia has a history of choking when a major championship is on the line, the putts refusing to drop!

Even though Garcia would probably be on most pundits’ list of underachiever’s, to his credit, he has spent much of his career in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings (over 300 weeks between 2000 and 2009). Garcia reached a career high ranking of No. 2 after winning the HSBC Champions tournament in November 2008, second only to you know who. The 32-year old man-child, with the goofy, infectious smile, is approaching $40 million in career earnings. He pilots his own Lear jet and unhesitatingly lives the rich and famous lifestyle, including more notable ex-girlfriends than total career wins (22). He is the envy of many, and living the dream chasing a little white ball.

So, if Sergio Garcia has accomplished so much at age 32, why is he an underachiever? Let’s take a look at Sergio’s rap sheet to confirm our worst nightmare that the once personable, happy-golucky Spaniard with swagger has turned into a sullen, at times surly, indulgent egomaniac. Unless a golf transfusion takes place soon, that’s likely how Sergio will be remembered. Going into this year’s Master’s Garcia is 25-1 odds to win. Don’t bet that line because he is 0-53 in major championships, with his best finish a T-4 in 2004 and missing four cuts since 1999. Is Garcia the best player to never win a major! You make the call!

At the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie Golf Links, Garcia led for three days and carried a three-shot lead over Steve Stricker and six-shot lead over the rest of the field into the start of the final round. The last putt on the 18th hole on Sunday, from eight feet, would have given him his first professional major. He choked and then lost a three-hole playoff to Padraig Harrington. For Garcia, 2007 had a few regrets. First, he signed a wrong scorecard after the third round of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills and was disqualified.

Then, while playing in the third round at the CA Championship at Doral, Garcia three-putted the 13th green and before a national TV audience, spit into the cup, prompting outraged fans to call NBC to complain. Garcia called his behavior inexcusable and apologized later. In May 2008, Garcia won The Players Championship in a playoff against Paul Goydos. But the next three years were all downhill until last October when he won two events in Spain against a bunch of unknowns.  Although Garcia was a member of five European Ryder Cup teams in 1999, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008, he failed to make the 2010 squad, serving as non-playing vice-captain, trying desperately to share the spotlight.

His Ryder Cup record is 14-6-4. Garcia is loaded with talent and loves to hold a pose after hitting his Taylor-Made driver, usually long and straight! With all that talent how did he turn into a slacker and underachiever? On March 11, again at Doral at the Cadillac Championship, the arrogant Spaniard pulled a John Daly. Garcia carded a 12 on the par-4, third hole, taking eight more swings than necessary, and far more than anyone ever owns up to. A rare octuple bogey, required five golf balls, and he ended up with a 76 and T-60 finish, banking $42,000.

That 12 may have dinged his wallet but money is not Sergio Garcia’s problem. The problem is his inability to make putts when they count. And, until El Nino starts cashing more first-place checks & hoisting trophies, he’s likely to stand as poster-boy-proof that his career so far is disappointing, not meeting once-grandiose expectations!

Tom Gorman is a Boston-based freelance golf writer whose list of horrible mentions of golf’s biggest underachievers include Adam Scott, David Duval, Davis Love, John Daly, Brett Quigley and James Driscoll.