Sergio Garcia finally did it. It took almost 20 years and 74 major championship starts, but Garcia won his first major at last.
Of all the ones, he did it at The Masters.
It must have been fate, but the day was really all about Garcia and runner-up, Justin Rose. Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler were all but out of contention by the time the back nine got going.
The drama and intensity really ratcheted up at the 13th.
With a possible 3-shot deficit taunting him, Garcia drilled a massive par putt following Rose’s miss for birdie. After cutting another stroke off the lead at the 14th, some of his best work was about to unfold.
Garcia’s approach shot on the 15th was so good that it hit the pin off the first bounce and rolled to about 15 feet from the hole. He then nailed a gigantic eagle-3 putt that almost stopped short. Masters Sunday was tied with just three holes to play.
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 9, 2017
Rose answered with a huge birdie on the 16th and took back a 1-shot lead after Garcia had to settle for par. Rose didn’t follow up the big birdie the way he wanted though, bogeying the 17th. Garcia meanwhile blasted his tee shot and masterfully dropped the ball onto the green with a beautiful second shot from 140 yards away.
After he parred the hole, the score and everyone’s arteries were knotted up again.
One of the scenes of the tournament was when the leaderboard revealed a tied score to the huge crowd at the 18th hole. They just erupted with excitement as the final pair was getting ready to tee off.
Both Garcia and Rose started the 18th with gorgeous tee shots. Rose’s second shot got a ridiculous kick on the first bounce and rolled onto the green to within 10 feet of the hole. Garcia responded with what Jim Nantz called a “shot of a lifetime.”
That’s exactly what it was.
Garcia’s sensational approach shot dropped to within seven feet of the cup, shifting the pressure back to Rose. With a chance to put all the pressure back on Garcia, Rose’s putt for birdie kissed the inner edge of the hole, but mercilessly rolled past it.
Now, it was Garcia facing immense pressure. He had a chance to do something only Arnold Palmer has done–win The Masters on the 72nd with a birdie.
Unfortunately for Garcia (but really fortunate for everyone watching), he missed pretty badly. Fans were treated to sudden death golf in the year’s best major.
“I knew I was playing well,” Garcia said about how he felt after missing the first chance at winning. “I was very calm, much calmer than yesterday, much calmer than I’ve felt probably in any major championship on Sunday. Obviously, Justin wasn’t making it easy, he was playing extremely well. But I knew what I was capable of doing and I believed I could do it.”
That is when the stars really seemed to align for Garcia on the 60th birthday of his idol and mentor, the late, great Seve Ballesteros.
With the anxiety of trying to replicate the same quality all over again on the 18th hole, Rose’s playoff tee shot veered to the right and landed in the pine straw about 180 yards from the hole. Garcia though, drilled his tee shot again and landed it nicely on the fairway.
After Rose punched his ball on to the fairway, he dropped it nicely on to the green about 20 feet from the pin. Garcia effortlessly nailed another beautiful second shot, his ball landing about 10-12 feet from paydirt. The door was kicked wide open after Rose’s birdie attempt missed by inches to the left.
Only needing to two-putt his way to his first ever major–with his family and fiancee, Angela Akins, sharing in the tension of the moment– Garcia’s putt rolled right into the history books.
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 10, 2017
“From the drive this morning here to the course, I felt very calm,” Garcia humbly said about what was different this time around. “I felt very at ease, more than yesterday even though yesterday I played well.”
When asked what he was most proud of, Garcia said, “Definitely demonstration of my character and my mentality–how positive I stayed even when things weren’t going that well on 10 or 11.”
Garcia’s raw display of emotions was palpable and tugged on the heart strings, especially seeing how the crowd exploded with love for him. The 37-year-old Spaniard finally clinched a major championship in his 74th start and 19th Masters with a 9-under 279 and playoff birdie.
“It’s been a long wait but it’s that much sweeter because of that wait,” Garcia said after thanking everyone who has supported him during his career. “It was a hard week but one very, very enjoyable and I will never forget. And, I get to call myself Masters champion, that is amazing.”
Trying to contain the pain of a heartbreaking defeat, Justin Rose, being the classy person that he is, was gracious towards his friend.
“If there’s anyone to lose to, it would be Sergio,” Rose said. “He deserves it as much as anyone out here. He’s had his fair share of heartbreak.”
The back-and-forth battle between Garcia and Rose was simply one for the ages. But the sense of relief exuding from Garcia after he won was icing on the cake.
Although it’s pretty hard to top Garcia’s eagle on the 15th, Matt Kuchar took home the shot of the day.
— Masters Tournament (@TheMasters) April 9, 2017
Kuchar scored the 19th ever hole-in-one at the 16th hole of The Masters and sent the gallery into a frenzy.
h/t: masters.com, espn.com