Sergio Garcia becomes a major champion at last after winning the 81st Masters
Sergio Garcia wins the 81st Masters
Augusta, Georgia – The year’s first major rarely disappoints, and the 2017 edition wasn’t the exception. On a brilliant Masters Sunday day at Augusta National Golf Club, the roars on the back nine were there and so were the stars of the game. Only this time, it was one that was long overdue that shined brightest.
At 37 years old and riding an 0 for 73 drought since his first major as a profesional in 1999, it was Sergio Garcia that showed off his new positive attitude – overcoming past failures and a few hiccups early on the back nine Sunday to become a major champion for the first time in his career defeating Justin Rose on the 1st hole of a sudden death playoff (after both players finished regulation at 9 under par with final round 69’s).
Asked afterwards what he was most proud of from the long battle with Justin Rose? “The demonstration of my character and mentality,” Sergio said. “How positive I stayed even when things weren’t going that well on ten and eleven. That is something that I did very well the whole week and it’s something that I need to keep improving and keep getting better at.” Sergio credited friends, family and his fiancee – American Angela Akins for all of the positive notes during the week.
In case you were in a coma or took a leave of earth for the day, here’s a brief summary of the back nine at Augusta National on Sunday:
Knotted up at 8 under par after nine holes, the back nine was set up for high Masters drama. After an errant approach at the tenth brought bogey, and a pulled drive at the eleventh brought another, he dropped two shots behind Rose. Another pulled tee shot on thirteen left him in an unplayable situation, and it was looking like familiar territory. In prior failed attempts to win the big one, Garcia proclaimed, “the golf gods are against me”, and “I’m just not good enough to win majors”, but this was a different Sergio. After taking his drop and hitting his recovery short of Rae’s Creek he hit a fantastic wedge to about 8 feet and made the putt for par. When Rose three putted for his par, Garcia had new life. After a birdie at fourteen & two bigtime shots on the par 5 fifteenth produced eagle, it was all tied and the roars from the patrons were at classic Sunday Augusta volume. After both players stiffed approaches on the sixteenth, Rose made his uphill right to left putt, while Garcia left his left to right putt just short. Rose up 1 again. After Rose bogeyed seventeen and Sergio made a routine par, the two were tied standing on the 72nd tee.
After good tee shots, Rose hit first and received a great bounce off the greenside mound on the right and the ball trickled into very makeable birdie range – about 9 feet away. Sergio Garcia flushed his approach to about 5 feet setting up an epic finish. Without giving all of the horrific details, both players missed their putts to win in regulation, and the tilt carried on to sudden death. Back on the eighteenth for the playoff, Garcia again striped his tee ball while Rose blocked his short right into the trees, but got a fortunate kick back towards play but remained in the pine straw obstructed by a large Magnolia tree. Rose punched out. Sergio once again took dead aim and hit it to about 11 feet for birdie. Rose hit his third to about 12 feet and then missed his par putt. Sergio needing only two putts to win, drained it in one and the Augusta faithful erupted in jubilation chanting SERGIO! SERGIO! SERGIO! – knowing they had just witnessed an instant classic.
After the final putt dropped, pure elation of a long overdue victory came out.
Rose said afterward, “If I had anybody to lose to, it would be Sergio. He’s had his fair share of heartbreaks.”
Sergio Garcia came to realize that if it was meant to be his time it would happen, “A lot of things were going through my mind, everybody that has supported me thru my moments, some (in the past) that hadn’t gone the way that I wanted, and some of the moments out here at Augusta that I maybe haven’t enjoyed so much and how stupid I really was trying to fight against something that you can’t fight, and how proud I was of accepting things. This week I’ve done it better than I ever had and because of that I’ve looked at the course in a different way.”
After all, the stars and planets were aligned, Sergio’s boyhood idol Seve Ballesteros would have been 60 years old Sunday. When Sergio’s last putt neared the hole it did look as if it was a bit off the mark until perhaps it got a friendly nudge, Just sayin . . .
The penultimate group of American favorites Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth fizzled with rounds of 76 and 75 respectively to finish at -1 in a tie for 11th.
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