Professional golfer Sergio Garcia has been dubbed “the best player to never win a major.” This week the 37-year old Spaniard was competing in his 73rd major pro golf championship, of which there are four. He defeated Englishman Justin Rose on the first extra hole today to win the 2016 Masters golf championship at Augusta, Georgia, on the famed Augusta National Golf Club. It was a trilling final round as both men tied with nine-under totals of 279. They finished the 72-hole tournament three strokes ahead of past Masters champion and third place finisher Charl Schwartzel.
Garcia and Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open Champion, thus a past major winner, started the fourth round today as co-leaders at six under par. They were paired together. Thus, late in the game it was like match play. Americans Jordan Spieth and Ricki Fowler had started close behind. But both faded early and finished at one under par 287.
Garcia took an early lead today, then Rose birdied three-in-row. They started the back nine tied. Garcia bogeyed the 10th and 11th to fall back. Then he drove in the left trees on the 13th, the easiest par five. Despite a penalty stroke, he salvaged a par with a crucial, twelve-foot putt to stay within two strokes of Rose. Then Sergio mustered a Spanish charge. He birdied the 14th hole. On the par-five 15th, he hit a long drive and an 8-iron for his second shot. The ball landed four inches from the hole, bounced up and glanced the pin, and then settled about twelve feet away again. He made that putt for an eagle three to briefly take the lead. His friend Justin Rose then birdied to make them tied at nine under par.
Garcia and Rose then went head-to-head the rest of the regulation play. Yet they displayed admirable sportsmanship multiple times, congratulating each other each time they made brilliant shots. Both played excellent iron shots to the par-three 16th hole. Both balls were about eight feet from the cup for birdie tries. Justin made his putt and Sergio missed his to fall one stroke back. But Justin drove in the short rough on the 17th, hit his iron in the sand bunker, and missed his eight foot par putt as Sergio missed a birdie putt to make par.
So, both competitors stood nine under par, dead even, as they played the 72nd hole of the tournament. Both drove well, in the fairway, on the par four 18th hole. Rose got a break on his second shot when the ball landed just off the right side of the green, near the sand bunker. It bounced way left, right towards the pin. But he missed his twenty-foot birdie putt, barely grazing the hole on the right side. Gergio then had a pretty easy eight foot birdie putt for the win. But he missed it two inches right.
They then went sudden death on the 18th hole again. Rose drove to the right, into the trees, and pitched short of the green in two. Sergio hit another great shot at the pin, this time about twelve feet behind the hole on the same line as before. Rose also had the same putt as last time, but this time for a par. He missed left and made bogey. Now the tournament belonged to Sergio. All he had to do was two-putt for a par and the win. He had hung on for a major championship until someone finally folded a little at the end. He made the putt for birdie, anyway, wining the hole 3 to 5.
Filled with such emotion after playing in 73 major championships, and being close so many times yet never winning, he crouched down low to ground and just stayed there momentarily. He had gotten the monkey off his back that had haunted him for twenty years for not winning a major. Now he was the 2016 Masters champion.
To make it even sweeter, it was on his hero’s birthday–Spaniard superstar and past Masters champion Seve Ballesteros who had died of a brain tumor in 2011 at age 54. So, Sergio Garcia joined Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal as three three Spaniards who won the Masters.