Sergio Garcia wins his breakthough major with Masters victory on first playoff hole
The record will show that Sergio Garcia won his first major on his 74th try on the 73rd hole of the 81st Masters tournament.
But most who were watching on Sunday will tell you that he won the tournament on the 13th hole when he and Justin Rose both made pars.
Two pars decided the tournament?
It makes sense if you relive Sunday’s final round, which turned out to be match play between Garcia and Rose. In the end, it was the only pairing that mattered.
Garcia led by three strokes after five holes.
Rose led by two after 11 holes.
They were tied at nine under after the 17th hole … and the 18th.
“I knew I was playing well,” Garcia said. “I was very calm, much calmer than [Saturday], much calmer than I’ve felt in any major championship on Sunday.”
The first and only playoff hole started when Rose pushed his drive to the right on No. 18, landing in the pine straw with a yawning tree branch blocking a natural route to the hole. All he could do was punch out and it wasn’t that good of a punch.
“If I had any option to try and do something creative, I certainly would have done so,” Rose said. “But I had a little pine cone behind the ball which meant I couldn’t really spin the ball. … So I really had nothing.”
Garcia had knocked his drive straight, almost 300 yards down the fairway. He put his second shot to about 12 feet. Rose put his third to 14 feet. Rose missed his putt to the left.
All Garcia had to do was two-putt. He only needed one, draining it for birdie.
Garcia fell into a crouch clenching his fists, showing the kind of emotion that has been a trademark of his 18-year pro career. At 37, he was no longer the best player never to have won a major.
Sunday started with Garcia and Rose tied for the lead and playing in the last group. The smart money was on Jordan Spieth, two shots back, who was playing with Rickie Fowler, who began one shot behind. Spieth shot a 75, Fowler a 76.
Garcia moved out to a quick lead by birdieing the first and third holes. Rose then bogeyed the fifth and the difference was three.
But then Rose made three birdies in a row, sinking putts of 12, four and 15 feet. They were even at the turn.
The 10th is where Garcia’s game went awry. He took a bogey when he put his second shot right of the green and hit his third through the green. Then he bogeyed the 11th when he needed three shots to make the green and then two-putted from 14 feet.
Rose was up by two.
“Barring a great comeback from Sergio, it was mine to cruise to the house,” Rose said. “But it’s not always that easy. At the end of the day . . . you’re going to win majors and you’re going to lose majors but you’ve got to be willing to lose them.”
Both parred the 12th.
Then came No. 13, a par five.
Garcia put his drive to the left and underneath an azalea bush. He had to take a one-shot penalty for an unplayable lie.
“In the past I would have been going, you know, [complaining] at my caddie,” Garcia said. “You know, why doesn’t [the shot] go through and whatever.
“But I was like, well, if that’s what is supposed to happen, let it happen. Let’s try to make a great five here and see if we can put a hell of a finish to have a chance. And if not, we’ll shake Justin’s hand and congratulate him for winning.”
Garcia got about 110 yards on his third shot, a punch-out, leaving him 90 yards short of the pin.
Rose hit a perfect drive and was slightly over the back of the green about 25 yards from the hole on his second shot.
This looked like a potential two-shot swing putting Rose up by four.
But then . . .
Garcia’s fourth shot hit inches from the cup and spun eight feet away. Rose’s third shot went past the hole by four feet.
Photos from the Masters at Augusta National, site of golf’s first major tournament of the year.
Garcia made his putt. Rose missed his. Par. Par. Advantage, Garcia. Momentum, Garcia.
“I knew I need to make that putt to stay with it,” Garcia said. “I knew what I could do, what I did on 14, 15,16. That putt really turned the clock for me. Got me more confident.”
Rose was well aware.
“That little two-shot swing was kind of when he was back in the tournament,” Rose said. “I feel like if he misses at that point, I’m four clear and got my eye on Thomas Pieters and Matt Kuchar.”
Garcia then birdied the 14th and made a 15-foot putt for an eagle on the 15th. In 13, 14 and 15, Garcia had found his Amen Corner.
Rose birdied the 16th hole and bogeyed the 17th. On the final hole of regulation, Rose missed a seven-foot putt and Garcia missed a five-footer.
On to the playoff and the vanquishing of some demons.
“It’s been an amazing week and I’m going to enjoy it for the rest of my life,” Garcia said.
Golf fans will just store it away as another memorable Masters.