Veteran Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia finally captured his first major title, winning Sunday's Masters championship in Augusta, Georgia, in a sudden death playoff over Britain's Justin Rose.
The two players are long-time friends and they both finished regulation at 9-under-par. On the first extra hole, where they again played the par-4 18th, Rose hit his shot off the tee into the rough and was unable to reach the green in two shots. He made a bogie 5.
Needing only to two-putt the hole to win, Garcia finished in style by sinking his 12-foot (4m) putt for a birdie 3. He had missed a putt from about the same distance on the same hole that would have given him the win in regulation.
After he hugged his caddie, the crowd loudly chanted "Sergio, Sergio, Sergio!" Garcia pumped his arms and pounded his fist into the grass in elation, and then his fiancee joined him on the green for a tight hug and kisses.
“It's been such a long time coming,” said the 37-year-old Garcia, after a two decade wait in which he played 73 majors. “I thought I had it on 18 (in regulation). I felt today the calmness I have never felt in a major on a Sunday. Even after making a couple bogies, I felt very positive.”
Sunday’s win has added meaning
“Disappointed,” said Rose, last year's Rio Olympics gold medalist and 2013 U.S. Open champion. “I lost a wonderful battle with Sergio. But he deserves it. He's had his fair share of heartbreak. I played well, but he rallied.”
It was a fairy tale-like story, because Garcia's first major golf championship came on what would have been the 60th birthday of his idol Seve Ballesteros, his fellow Spaniard and former world No. 1 who won five major championships, including Masters victories in 1980 and 1983. Ballesteros died six years ago from brain cancer.
“It's amazing,” said Garcia. “To do it on his 60th birthday and join him and José María Olazábal, my two idols.”
Like Ballesteros, the Spaniard Olazábal won two Masters championships, in 1994 and 1999. Garcia said Olazábal sent him a text message before the Masters began, telling him what he needed to do and that he believed in him.
The 36-year-old Rose and Garcia were co-leaders to start the fourth and final round Sunday at six-under-par, and both played the first nine holes at two-under-par. Garcia fell two shots behind after bogies at the 10th and 11th holes, but got one back with a birdie on the 14th. He tied Rose with an eagle 3 on the 15th while Rose had a birdie 4.
Rose went back ahead with a birdie on the 16th, but fell back into a tie with a bogie on the 17th, setting up the dramatic finish.
Throughout the final day, the two golfers acknowledged one another's well-played shots.
“I think at the end of the day we're both trying to win, but we're both people and we both have to represent the game the way we should,” said Garcia. “We're good friends so we were respectful of one another and cheering each other on. We wanted to win, but we didn't want the other to make mistakes.”
“I think it will be a tournament I will win one day,” said Rose. “It's my favorite tournament of the year. I have a bunch of years left in my tank, and I think this is one I will knock off.”