74th time lucky! How Sergio Garcia broke his major duck and won the US Masters
Sergio Garcia came through a play-off against Justin Rose at the US Masters to exorcise his Major demons and land one of golf’s big four events for the first time.
After missing a four-footer for victory on the 72nd hole at Augusta National, the Spaniard clinched his first Green Jacket on the day Seve Ballesteros would have turned 60 years old.
Sunday was set up to be an all-time classic – given the strength of the leaderboard and the great storylines everywhere you looked – and it turned out to be, but perhaps not in the form most people expected.
Jordan Spieth, who hadn’t finished outside the top two at Augusta in three appearances, and Rickie Fowler played very scrappy golf on the front nine as Rose and Garcia moved to eight-under-par after eight holes. From then on, it was a two-horse race.
Garcia hit a poor second to the 10th and pulled his drive behind a tree on the 11th, with both resulting in bogeys. From there, it really developed into a match-play situation.
Over an astonishing closing few holes, the lead went back and forth as Garcia made an eagle on 15 before Rose replied with a birdie two on 16 to take a one-shot lead. He then missed an eight-footer on 17 to leave the pair tied on nine-under-par.
The story on 18 was of missed putts once again. After Rose’s effort slid by the right side, Garcia had just four feet standing between him and the Major he’d so craved for so long. It wasn’t to be.
But he was handed an opening when Rose’s drive on the first play-off hole, the 18th, found tree trouble and the Englishman was only able to advance his ball some 50 yards up the fairway.
Garcia seized the moment, knocked his approach to eight feet and holed the subsequent putt when two would have sufficed.
It was a hugely significant moment. He’d recorded 22 Major top 10s in 74 starts before today and finished as a runner-up four times. If he’d not claimed the Green Jacket given the putt he missed on 18 in regulation, you sensed it would have been almost impossible to recover from.
I never saw Garcia as a Masters Champion – his record at Augusta was average coming into this week – but I felt he had a good chance when I saw the weather forecast for Thursday and Friday.
His ability to shape the ball and control trajectory is second to none, and his iron play is up there with the very best of them.
His approach play over the final few holes ultimately won him the tournament – he hit glorious iron shots into 14, 15, 16 and twice into 18 – but the turning point came on the 13th hole.
Rose, two clear at the time, was in an ideal position in the right side of the fairway as Garcia took a penalty drop following a pulled drive. A four-shot lead looked likely for the Englishman, but the pair walked off the green with just two strokes between them.
You know the rest. The Seve storyline will be disseminated by all media outlets in the wake of his triumph, but this wasn’t destiny – Garcia played some of the finest golf of his career to get the job done.
Five years ago at Augusta, he wrote off his chances of winning a Major Championship. Now, he’s leaving wearing the Green Jacket. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Final leaderboard (bold signifies Titleist golf ball usage)
1) Sergio Garcia (ESP) - 71, 69, 70, 69 - 279 (-9)
2) Justin Rose (Eng) - 71, 72, 67, 69 - 279 (-9)
3) Charl Schwartzel (RSA) - 74, 72, 68, 68 - 282 (-6)
T4) Thomas Pieters (BEL) - 72, 68, 75, 68 - 283 (-5)
T4) Matt Kuchar (USA) - 72, 73, 71, 67 - 283 (-5)
6) Paul Casey (ENG) - 72, 75, 68, 68 - 284 (-4)
T7) Kevin Chappell (USA) - 71, 76, 70, 68 (-3)
T7) Rory McIlroy (NIR) - 72, 73, 71, 69 (-3)
Attend The 2018 Masters with Your Golf Travel – visit yourgolftravel.com/us-masters Experiences including flights, hotels & tickets are available. Nick Bonfield travelled to the 2017 Masters courtesy of Your Golf Travel.
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Nick Bonfield joined Golf Monthly in 2012 after graduating from Exeter University and earning an NCTJ-accredited journalism diploma from News Associates in Wimbledon. He is responsible for managing production of the magazine, sub-editing, commissioning and feature writing. Most of his online work is opinion-based and typically centres around the Majors and significant events in the global golfing calendar. Nick has been an avid golf fan since the age of ten and became obsessed with the professional game after watching Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel win The Masters and PGA Championship respectively in 2003. In his time with Golf Monthly, he's interviewed the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jose Maria Olazabal, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Billy Horschel and has ghost-written columns for Westwood, Wayne Riley, Matthew Southgate, Chris Wood and Eddie Pepperell. Nick is a 12-handicap golfer and his favourite courses include Old Head, Sunningdale New, Penha Longha, Valderrama and Bearwood Lakes. If you have a feature pitch for Nick, please email email@example.com with 'Pitch' in the subject line. Nick is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade M1 Fairway wood: TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Hybrid: Ping Crossover Irons (4-9): Nike Vapor Speed Wedges: Cleveland CBX Full Face, 56˚, Titleist Vokey SM4, 60˚ Putter: testing in progress! Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
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