Sergio Garcia finally showed he has what it takes to win a major golf tournament, and he has a green jacket to prove it. He overcame a two-shot deficit with six holes to play in the Masters and beat Justin Rose in a sudden-death playoff Sunday.
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Sergio Garcia tugged the lapel of his green jacket with both hands, proud of his prize and how he earned it.
His hopes were fading Sunday in the Masters — two shots behind with six holes to play — when his tee shot on No. 13 bounced off a tree and into an azalea bush, the kind of bad luck the 37-year-old golfer from Spain had come to expect in major tournaments. Instead of pouting, he figured out how to make par.
Five feet away from winning in regulation, his birdie putt on the 18th green at Augusta National peeled off to the right. Usually resigned to fail, Garcia proved to be more resilient than ever.
He became a new man with a new title: Masters champion.
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“It’s been an amazing week,” Garcia said, “and I’m going to enjoy it for the rest of my life.”
After nearly two decades of heartache in the tournaments that define careers, Garcia finally showed the mettle to win a major title. He beat Justin Rose on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.
No one ever played more majors as a pro (70) before winning one for the first time.
Garcia got rid of the demons and the doubts with two big moments on the par-5 holes — one a par, the other an eagle — in closing with a 3-under 69.
It was never easy until the end, when Rose sent his drive into the trees on the 18th hole in the playoff, punched out and failed to save par from 15 feet.
That gave Garcia two putts from 12 feet to secure the victory, and his first one swirled into the cup for a birdie.
He crouched in apparent disbelief, both fists clenched and shaking, and he shouted above the loudest roar of the day.
Rose, who also closed with a 69, graciously patted Garcia’s cheek before they embraced. The Englishman then tapped Garcia on the heart, which turned out to be a lot bigger than many realized.
“Ser-gee-oh! Ser-gee-oh!” the delirious gallery chanted to Garcia, who earned $1.98 million. He turned with his arms to his side, blew a kiss to the crowd and then crouched again and slammed his fist into the turf of the green.
“Justin wasn’t making it easy. He was playing extremely well,” Garcia said. “But I knew what I was capable of doing, and I believed that I could do it.”
Garcia became the third Spaniard in a green jacket, winning on what would have been the 60th birthday of the late Seve Ballesteros. And it was Jose Maria Olazabal, who won the Masters in 1994 and 1999, who sent him a text on the eve of the Masters telling Garcia to believe and “to not let things get to me like I’ve done in the past.”
Garcia didn’t get down after missing a 6-foot putt on the 16th hole to fall out of the lead, or missing the short one on the last regulation hole.
His chin was up. He battled to the end.
“If there’s anyone to lose to, it’s Sergio. He deserves it,” Rose said. “He’s had his fair share of heartbreak.”
This was shaping up as another, especially after Garcia watched a three-shot lead disappear as quickly as it took Rose to run off three straight birdies on the front nine.
Tied going to the back nine, Garcia immediately fell two shots behind with wild shots into the pine-straw bed under the trees. Rose was poised to deliver a knockout on the par-5 13th when Garcia went left beyond the creek and into the bush. He had to take a penalty shot to get out and hit his third shot 89 yards short of the green. Rose was just over the back of the green in two, seemingly in position to turn a two-shot lead into four.
Everyone figured this was coming, right?
Garcia himself had once said, in a moment of self-pity, that he didn’t have what it takes to win a major. Four times he was a runner-up. This was his third time playing in the final group.
But right when it looked to be over, momentum shifted to Garcia.
He hit a wedge shot to 7 feet and escaped with par. Rose, meanwhile, rolled his chip down to 5 feet and missed the birdie putt. Thus the lead stayed at two shots, and the game was still on.
Garcia birdied the 14th hole. His 8-iron into the par-5 15th — “one of the best shots I hit all week,” he said — landed inches in front of the hole and nicked the pin, and he holed the 14-foot eagle putt to tie for the lead.
Rose went in front with an 8-foot birdie on the 16th, then gave the lead back by missing a 7-foot par putt on the 18th.
Not since 1998 have the last two players on the course gone to the 18th tied for the lead, and both had their chances to win. Rose’s approach hit off the side of the bunker and kicked onto the green, stopping 7 feet away. Garcia answered with a wedge that virtually covered the flag and settled 5 feet away.
Both missed their putts and were at 9-under 279 for 72 holes, three strokes ahead of third-place finisher Charl Schwartzel (68).
Kirkland homeowner Kevin Chappell (68) tied for seventh place at 3 under. Ryan Moore (74) of Puyallup, who was two shots behind co-leaders Garcia and Rose entering the day, tied for ninth at 2 under. Seattle native Fred Couples (72), a 57-year-old who won the 1992 Masters, tied for 18th at 1 over.
Garcia says he has learned to accept bad bounces on the course. He realized he has a “beautiful life” even if he never won a major title.
“If it, for whatever reason, didn’t happen, my life is still going to go on. It’s not going to be a disaster,” Garcia said.
And then, smiling, he added, “But it happened.”