Twenty-years ago, we thought we’d say it many times. Then with one disappointing finish after another, we started to think it might never happen, that we might never get to say it. But after today, April 9th 2017, we can FINALLY say it.
Sergio Garcia is a major champion.
After a downright gutty final round at The Masters that was unbelievably up-and-down, the 37-year-old who had gone 0-for in his 73 career major starts finally came through in the clutch.
With an incredible birdie on the first playoff hole, minutes after missing a championship-clinching putt on the 72nd hole, Sergio defeated Justin Rose to win the green jacket and finally bring some validation to a tremendous career.
Of course, it wasn’t easy. It never is for Sergio. On Sunday, he had just as many “wow” moments as he had “here we go again” moments.
He started off hot, was declared dead by many after a wayward drive on the par-5 13th hole; bounced back; hit some championship-caliber iron shots; missed putts on the last two holes in regulation; and then when his birdie putt fell on the 73rd, the long major wait for the much-criticized Spaniard was finally over.
It coming on the 60th birthday of legendary Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros made it even sweeter.
No DJ? No Tiger? No problem.
Despite the absence of the world No. 1 and the maybe golf’s all-time best No. 1, The Masters managed to deliver another thrilling edition.
FINAL TOP 10
1 Sergio Garcia -9
2 Justin Rose -9
3 Charl Schwartzel -6
4 Matt Kuchar -5
4 Thomas Pieters -5
6 Paul Casey -4
7 Kevin Chappell -3
7 Rory McIlroy -3
9 Ryan Moore -2
9 Adam Scott -2
11 Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth -1
16 Steve Stricker E
18 Fred Couples, Jimmy Walker, Lee Westwood +1
22 Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Charley Hoffman +2
27 Jon Rahm +3
HOW SERGIO DID IT
With his unfortunate past of poor Sundays in majors, it was critical for Sergio to get off to a good start, and he did exactly that, birdieing Nos. 1 and 3 to open up a two-shot lead on the field.
After birdies on 6, 7, and 8, Justin Rose got within one by the turn, and then after back-to-back bogeys by Garcia on Nos. 10 and 11, Rose suddenly held the lead.
The critical hole in this championship was the 13th. Already down two to Rose, Sergio tried to cut the corner on the famous par-5, and failed miserably, landing in some bushes and having to take an unplayable.
Just as it looked like Rose might start to run away with the tournament, Sergio carded a miraculous par, which was matched by Rose after a missed birdie try. Sergio then birdied 14 and then made a phenomenal eagle on 15 to square up the tournament with just three holes to go.
Both Sergio and Rose hit amazing tee shots on the par-3 16th. Rose made his birdie putt, but then Sergio, a famously poor putter, historically, missed his birdie try, and Rose was back up by one with just two to play.
Rose immediately gave that stroke back on 17, leaving the two tied going into the final hole – the par-4 18th. Both hit great drives, and even better second shots. Rose got a very favorable bounce on an approach that started off considerably to the right, rolling to within 8 feet of the hole.
Sergio’s approach was even better, as he stuck it to six feet away. Both could have won right there with a made-birdie putt, but both missed, leading to a playoff.
Playing 18 again, the first playoff hole, Sergio got a big advantage with a great drive, as Rose landed in the pine straw and hit a poor punch shot out. Rose’s third was a good one, however, leaving him about 10-12 feet for par from almost the same spot he had just missed from in regulation.
But Rose’s par-putt slid past the hole, leaving Sergio in the enviable position of having two putts to win The Masters. He needed only one, nailing his 10-foot birdie putt, and making history.
While the day was mostly just about Sergio and Rose, a few others were relevant at different times, with Matt Kuchar, Thomas Pieters, and Charl Schwartzel playing well on the back nine. Kuchar even had an ace on the par-3 16th. Ultimately, they needed Sergio and Rose to come back to the field, which they never did.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR SERGIO
This is a life-changing, legacy-altering event for Sergio. The memories of the young, exuberant 19-year-old Sergio nearly taking down Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship at Baltrusol had slowly faded over the years.
And with each passing season without a major win, questions settled in about whether Sergio would ever capture one, or if he was destined to become the next Colin Montgomerie.
That is an incredible weight off Sergio’s shoulders. He may very well win fewer majors than it looked like he would when he was a young superstar with unlimited potential, but at least he won’t get shut out entirely.
He will now get to play the rest of his career with that monkey off his back, which very well could lead to winning more majors. And he will forever be known as a Masters champion.
FOWLER AND SPIETH: THE PENULTIMATE DUD
The Sergio-Rose pairing lived up to the hype and more, but the more anticipated second-to-last grouping of young stars Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth was an unmitigated disaster.
Fowler stayed relevant longer than Spieth, who bogeyed three of his first six holes. Fowler was basically out of contention after bogeys on 11 and 12. He would add three more on 16, 17, and 18 to finish with a four-over 76 and dropping from third to a tie for 11th (-1).
Spieth butchered the first three holes of the back nine for the second consecutive year going bogey-par-double in that stretch. His tee shot on 12, where he famously quadruple-bogeyed last year, spun back off the green and into the water.
Spieth closed with birdies on 15, 16, and 18 to make his round look better (he shot a three-over 75), but had long lost the tournament by then.
“I don’t know how. It has been such a long time coming. I thought I had it on 18, I hit the putt exactly where I wanted. I practiced that putt in the practice round, and it breaks left, but for some reason it didn’t. I knew I was playing well.
Today, I felt a calmness that I’ve never felt on a major Sunday, and even after making a couple bogeys, I was still very positive, there were holes I believed I could get to, and I hit some really good shots coming in.”
–Sergio Garcia, Masters Champion