Sergio Garcia wrote his name into the history books at Augusta National and threw the Major monkey from his back with vigour as he overcame Justin Rose in a play-off to win the 2017 US Masters
Garcia’s Masters Triumph Proves Spirit Of Seve Lives On
Sergio Garcia wrote his name into the history books at Augusta National and threw the Major monkey from his back with vigour as he overcame Justin Rose in a play-off to win the 2017 US Masters.
Many will tell you it was just a matter of time; others will concede they though it would never happen for the mercurial Spaniard after a string of near misses.
In his post-victory press conference, Garcia referenced the emergence of Jon Rahm and spoke with pride about another Spanish golfing success on the world stage. Garcia became the third Spaniard to win a Major Championship (and a green jacket) and took the country’s Major tally to eight – the seventh best haul of any nation.
You’ll know by now that Garcia’s triumph came on the same day that Seve Ballesteros would have turned 60 years old. He also revealed Jose Maria Olazabal had given him a note at the start of the week that he used as inspiration. Both those players were his idols. Now, he’s in the same exclusive club as them. It seems like an opportune time to analyse Spanish golfing successes.
Seve, of course, started things for this proud sporting nation with his victory at the 1979 Open Championship. His swashbuckling style and charisma gave Spanish golf an identity and set the blueprint for his other compatriots follow.
Four more Majors followed – two more at The Open and two at Augusta – but it wasn’t only his successes in golf’s big four events that characterised his career and defined his legacy.
He won 50 European Tour events and more than 90 tournaments internationally to go down as the greatest Continental European golfer of all time, and his absurd recovery shots and swashbuckling style inspired thousands. Sadly, a brain tumour brought his life to a premature end at the age of just 54.
Seve was also a stalwart of early European Ryder Cup teams and the European talisman following the expansion of the GB&I side in 1979. His partnership with fellow Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal was legendary and one of the main reasons why Europe were able to land the 1987 Ryder Cup at Muirfield Village – the first European victory on away soil. Ballesteros also captained the team to success at Valderrama in 1997.
In the mid-‘90s, Seve started to struggle with back injuries, and a new face was needed to carry the Spanish torch in the Majors. That man was Olazabal.
In the 1994 Masters, he was tied for the lead with Larry Mize and Tom Lehmann heading into the back nine on Sunday. His approach to the par-5 15th clung on to the front of the green and he ended up landing his first Major six years after Seve’s last. He made it two at Augusta five years later – the same year Garcia finished as the low amateur.
Olazabal was a key Ryder Cup figure in his playing days – the image of him dancing at Muirfield Village is one of the most iconic photographs in the event’s history.
He also orchestrated one of the greatest sporting comeback of all time as Europe fought back from a 10-6 deficit heading into the Sunday singles to win the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah. As captain, Olazabal summoned the spirit of Seve – who had died the year before – and famously broke down in tears after Martin Kaymer holed a six-footer on the 18th green to ensure Europe retained the cup.
Garcia was influential in those matches, defeating Jim Furyk on Sunday, and for so long it looked as if his greatest golfing successes would be confined to the biennial team event. All that changed on Sunday.
For so long golf’s nearly man in the Majors – something that began when he ran Tiger Woods close at the 1999 USPGA Championship as a 19-year-old – Garcia had finished second four times before the 2017 US Masters, notably thwarted by Padraig Harrington in the 2007 Open and 2008 USPGA.
It looked as if he’d missed out again when his drive on Augusta’s par-5 13th found the trees and he was forced to take a penalty drop, but he rallied with some brilliant iron play and ultimately overcame good friend Rose in a play-off. Now he’s won one, a Phil Mickelson-style Major run certainly isn’t out of the question.
It also seems fitting that Rahm was playing his first Masters this year, given the intertwined nature of Spanish golfers’ career paths over the years. He looks like another Major Champion in the making.
But for now, let’s focus on Garcia’s triumph. He’s a fine player who embodies everything that Spanish golf has come to represent over the years – charisma, popularity, flair and a knack for producing something special at career-defining moments.
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.