Austinites rally around Garcia at Dell Match Play

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Austin Country Club has not been kind to those returning to the familiar Austin grounds for the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play. Not a single former Longhorn made it out of group play on Thursday, leaving Texas fans and Austinites alike questioning who they should root for in the Round of 16.

An answer to this question for many was last year’s Masters champion: Sergio Garcia.

Garcia married former Texas golfer Angela Akins last year. Akins was originally from Marble Falls, Texas, before continuing her golf career at TCU and Texas. She used to work as a reporter for Golf Channel.  

Akins recently gave birth to the couple’s first child on March 14, and the couple even gave the baby girl an Augusta National themed name: Azalea.

Since his marriage, Garcia seems to have become one of the fan favorites here in Austin. He saw a sizeable following all week long, ultimately seeing his gallery grow to one of the largest on the course during the Round of 16.

“It's good fun,” Garcia said. “Obviously my wife Angela is from here. Our daughter was born here. Her family is a big Longhorns family, so we have good connections, strong connections with Austin and UT, and I’ve always enjoyed it.”

Echoes of “Hook em’ Horns” could be heard from those wearing burnt orange in the crowd, with the Spaniard always giving a nod or wave to the common Longhorn cheer. Garcia even seemed to flash the “horns up” sign on one hole to please a cheering Texas fan and display his newfound affection for Texas sports.

“I’ve enjoyed watching their football games and maybe a couple of basketball games and stuff,” Garcia said. “And I got to practice soccer with the women’s team a couple of times. It’s good fun”

Garcia flashed some of his best golf during group play of the tournament, which took place from Wednesday through Friday. The Spaniard won all three on his group play matches in taking down the likes of Shubhankar Sharma, Dylan Frittelli and Xander Schauffele.

In each of his group play rounds, Garcia battled back after being down the majority of the match, consistently meeting the challenge and closing the gap to end group play undefeated.

“No, don’t get me wrong, I don’t enjoy that, I’d rather be 2- or 3-up on the front and play the back like I’ve been playing it, and win 5-4, but unfortunately I didn't’ manage to do it all week,” said Garcia. “And you keep doing that, eventually things don’t go exactly like you planned.”

Alas, the makeshift Austinite did not fare well on the fourth day of play at Austin Country Club.

Garcia found himself paired up against Kyle Stanley in the Round of 16 on Saturday. This would be the matchup for Garcia that finally did not go as he had planned.

Garcia took an early 1-up lead on the first hole that he later relinquished on the third after a birdie by Stanley. Two holes later, a bogey on the fifth hole by Garcia would give a 1-up lead to Stanley.

Garcia would not muster up a comeback to recover from the deficit this time.

Stanley led the rest of the match until finally taking a 3-1 victory over Garcia with a deciding birdie on the 17th hole.

Garcia only managed three birdies for the round, compared to Stanley’s six. He also suffered three bogeys, two of which lost him the respective holes.

After being eliminated from play here in Austin, Garcia will have his mind set on defending his Masters title in two weeks at Augusta National. Garcia’s 2017 Masters title was his first major of his career.

“It’s exciting,” Garcia said. “Obviously when we get there, it’s going to be interesting to see how we feel and everything, but it is definitely exciting.”