Sergio Garcia is good enough for the majors after all.
Garcia, who famously said five years ago that he would never win a major, now owns a green jacket. After years of coming close, the Spaniard finally broke through to win his first major tournament at the Masters on Sunday.
“I’m thrilled to be standing here this late, this Sunday evening,” Garcia said. “It’s a beautiful thing to have.”
And as it can be at Augusta National Golf Club, the drama was thick
It took a playoff, but Garcia got it done on the first extra hole. In the playoff, Garcia had a birdie on No. 18, the hole he had played about 15 minutes prior, to edge Englishman Justin Rose for the title.
Rose began the first playoff hole with a drive that went into the woods, giving Garcia an early opportunity. Rose then doubled up by being unable to save par on the green. But Garcia didn’t need to 2-putt his final hole. He sank his ball in his third stroke, giving him his first-ever major.
“Under the gun, with the pressure, it’s not that easy to do,” Garcia said. “That gave me a lot of belief, and for some reason, when I get into playoffs now lately, I’m quite comfortable. I feel like I already had an amazing week no matter what happens. I felt I could go out there and freewheel it, and I hit two great shots to finish it.”
Garcia and Rose began overtime after finishing four rounds of golf at 9 under. Entering the final day tied, each shot a 3-under-par 69 on Sunday, with both having opportunities on the final hole to claim a Masters title.
The two golfers hit approach shots close to the hole on No. 18, with Rose putting first. Rose’s attempt grazed right by the hole, causing him to gasp and clasp his hand over his mouth. Rose then saved par with a subsequent short putt. That meant Garcia was shooting from roughly 6 feet for the Masters title. But his putt never had a chance and veered right from the hole.
Prior to No. 18, Rose and Garcia both put in some phenomenal golf. The 30-something golfers drove their scores lower while young guns Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, both of whom finished at 1 under, struggled throughout. It created a match-play scenario that had Augusta National abuzz.
Garcia’s first big moment came at No. 13, when he hit his ball into the pine straw and appeared to be in a heap of trouble. He was able to get his ball back onto the fairway on the par-5 hole and save par. In the moment, Rose said that is when he realized the championship likely would come down to Garcia and him. If not for Garcia getting out of treacherous territory, Rose might have been competing against someone else down the stretch.
“That 2-shot swing was when he was back in the tournament,” Rose said. “I feel if he misses there I’m full clear and looking at Thomas Pieters and Matt Kuchar.”
Pieters and Kuchar both finished tied for fourth at 5 under, while Charl Schwartzel placed third at 6 under.
Garcia repeatedly said the par save on No. 13 was crucial to pulling out the Masters championship.
“In the past, I would have started going at my caddie, ‘Why doesn’t it go through?’ and whatever,” Garcia said. “I was like, ‘Well, if that’s what’s supposed to happen, let it happen. Let’s try to make a 5 here and put a hell of a finish to see what happens.’ ”
The excitement between Garcia and Rose truly began on No. 14, when Garcia pulled within 1 stroke after a birdie on the par-4 hole. On No. 15, Garcia hit a brilliant approach shot that landed right next to the hole, grazed the pin and rolled slightly down the slope. Garcia’s uphill putt that followed had just enough juice to fall through the cup for an eagle, which momentarily put him in the lead.
But Rose quickly answered with a birdie of his own to tie the score.
Rose then took the lead with a birdie on the par-3 16th as Garcia was unable to sink his attempt after a solid first stroke. But Rose aided Garcia with a bogey on No. 17 to even the score once again.
While Garcia very much won the Masters, Rose missed some opportunities down the stretch. Faltering on the final two holes — No. 18 in regulation and in the playoff — Rose opened the door twice for Garcia.
Garcia was unable to capitalize the first time. The second time, he sealed the deal.
Garcia has garnered a reputation as one of the greatest golfers to never win a major. He seemed resigned to that fact as a part of his legacy when he made that comment about not being good enough for the majors five years ago at Augusta National.
Rose, who has one major title — the 2013 U.S. Open — to his name, showed disappointment in being unable to win the Masters. He also expressed relief for Garcia, his longtime friend whom he has played against since the age of 14.
“Sergio is obviously the best player not to have won a major no longer,” Rose said.
But losing out on the green jacket “stings,” Rose said, especially considering it was a tournament very much in his grasp.
“I would say this one probably is one that slipped by, for sure,” Rose said
Garcia said he felt calmer Sunday than he had on the final day of a major than ever before. On the Sunday morning drive to Augusta National, Garcia said nerves were at a minimum.
An emotional golfer, Garcia remained focused throughout the final round. When he bogeyed Nos. 10 and 11, he didn’t fret. When No. 13 began in the woods, he kept his composure. In previous majors, Garcia may have melted down. At ease, he went with the flow. It paid off with his first-ever major title
“I thought how stupid I really was to fight against something you can’t fight and how proud I was of accepting things,” Garcia said. “This week I’ve done it better than I ever had.”