Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose made the turn in the final round at the Masters right where they began the day: tied for the lead.
Garcia birdied the 18th hole, minutes after seeing a shorter birdie try on the same green stay right of the cup, to beat Justin Rose on the first playoff hole of the 81st Masters, the 37-year-old’s first major championship after almost two decades of questions of if he’d ever win one.
Garcia hit laser irons shots at the 14th and 15th holes to set up a birdie and an eagle, respectively, forging a tie with three holes to go.
And so, on what would have been the 60th birthday of his late, great compatriot Severiano Ballesteros, he found the inner strength to see off Rose at the first hole of a playoff.
He took off his cap and stood to the side of the green, resigned to his fate.
“He’s a growing boy”, Danzi said of 23-year-old Spieth.
Where CBS’s production team was at its absolute best was on Garcia’s championship-winning putt. He chipped out under the tree, hit his third shot to 15 feet and missed the par putt.
But, Garcia’s birdie putt missed, too.
Yeah, Garcia has a history, but there’s a lot to admire in how far he has come, in what he’s overcoming in himself. He has said this week that he has been trying to accept the breaks – good and bad – that happen in golf, in contrast to some of his woe-is-me reactions to past major struggles. “I felt like I had it under control on the back nine”. “I feel like if he misses at that point, I make [mine] – I’m four clear and I’ve got my eye on Thomas Pieters and Matt Kuchar, instead”.
But the eve of this year’s first major, Garcia received an inspirational message from compatriot and boyhood idol Jose Maria Olazabal, a twice Masters victor, saying he believed in him, stay calm and do not get rattled like in the past. “I think we’ve always known that Sergio is an emotional kind of guy on and off the golf course, and when it’s all clicking, he’s one of the best in the world”. “He deserves it. He’s had his share of heartbreak”. Both players shot 9-under 279 in regulation.
Still, it was easy to sense Spieth’s disappointment detailing his miscues after the round while Garcia and Rose were locked in battle that eventually was won by the Spaniard in a playoff.
Drawing strength from Spain’s greatest golfers, Sergio Garcia finally managed to win a major. The CBS field operators got close enough to hear Garcia wail in excitement after being embraced by his fiancée on the green.
“This tournament was just not for me”, said the South African, a Masters runner-up in 2000 and 2004.
“Sergio often feels like he’s not supported the way he would like to be here in America”, said the vanquished Rose. “I would have liked to be on the right part of it”.
Rose and Garcia started out tied for the lead.
Ernie Els will be playing with a marker in what could be his final round at the Masters. Garcia opened an early three-shot lead, then stumbled with bogeys at 10 and 11 before rising from a near knockout unplayable lie at the 13th hole to save a miracle par. Garcia sank a testy 8-footer to save par. “And even after making a couple of bogeys, I was still very positive”. After Garcia made his 14-foot eagle putt on No. 15, Rose gave him an “atta boy” pat with his putter. His rally took off on Saturday with five birdies on a 10-hole stretch for a 68 to leave him just two back heading into the final round.
However, the tension was not done because both players parred the 18th hole and had to go to a playoff hole before the title could be decided.
“I would say this one probably is one that slipped by, for sure”.
“I felt today, I felt the calmest I’ve ever felt in a major, a major Sunday”, Garcia said.