Nobody was exactly sure how the story would play out in the final round of the 2017 Masters. What every golf fan knew though, is that like almost every year, it would be worth watching to the end. The very end.
When you have a cast of characters that includes the likes of Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth, and Rickie Fowler as contenders at the start of the day, the potential for the remarkable is very real.
It took one extra hole but Sergio Garcia delivered the fairytale ending. The man who had experienced nothing but frustration, self-inflicted disasters, and all manners of collapses through 73 majors championships finally persevered. The 74th try was the sweetest. The one where his wishes, and the expectations of the world of golf, were finally fulfilled.
Sergio Garcia was just three months old when Severiano Ballesteros won his first green jacket in 1980. And today, on what would have been the 60th birthday of one of his lifelong heroes, Garcia joined the departed Ballesteros in the very exclusive Masters Champions club.
For much of his career the younger Spaniard had belonged to another club, one he extricated himself from with heroic shots coming down the stretch at Augusta National. It was a true duel with Justin Rose as the key adversary.
“Maybe I’ll be the best player to only win one major now,” quipped the newly minted major champion after his playoff victory. “I can live with that.”
Garcia’s relationship with The Masters has been a tumultuous affair. There were times when he proclaimed that just maybe he was not destined to win a major, let alone a Masters title. It was the major that had been earned by two of his countrymen, Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal. Both on two occasions.
Three times Sergio had broken into the top ten at golf’s ultimate spring tradition. However, until now the closest he came to being a part of the green jacket ceremony was not as a professional. In 1999 he was the low amateur. The winner that year? Olazabal.
It was not that Garcia did not have the talent to win The Masters. He just never seemed to be able to get past one major hurdle. Himself. His fiery temperament, while fuelling him at times, seemed to consume him more often than not.
But not this Sunday. “Today I felt the calmest I ever felt in a major,” he shared in Butler Cabin for his television jacket ceremony.
His nerves might have been flat-lining, but that was likely not the case for much of the world watching. Many of them had been witness to his battles with major demons. They knew what a win for him would mean. But they were also painfully aware of previous outcomes. Just how would Sergio throw it away this time?
The Drama Begins
While Garcia was able to jump out to an early two-stroke lead on Rose in the final round, the Englishman pushed back. Sergio then did his part in adding to a volatile plot. He hit a series of poor shots in the middle of the round – making bogeys on the start of the second nine and shifting the focus to Rose, who was seeking his second major.
But then, The Masters that was scripted for 2017 was revealed. Garcia followed a penalty-touched par on 13 with a crisp approach and birdie on 14. And then there was THE shot – an approach on 15 from 177 yards that kissed the flag and left Garcia with a twelve-foot putt for eagle. He would convert it and the game was truly afoot.
Rose parried back with a birdie on 16 and each had putts to triumph in regulation on the final green. Both painfully slipped past the hole.
But no worries, Garcia would redeem himself, knocking his shot into the 18th green, the first hole of the playoff, tight to the hole. When Rose missed his birdie the stage was set.
Garcia responded as any good hero does, with an on-the-mark birdie putt that finally brought him what had been elusive – a major championship victory. It was the piece that had always failed to surface in any of the frightful narratives of his past.
This time, it would not be another haunting chapter of his golf life.
“It never felt like a horror movie,” said Garcia of how the best day of his golfing career played out. “A little bit of drama maybe, but now with a happy ending.
Sergio Garcia’s Masters Tournament-Winning Bag:
(All TaylorMade Golf product)
– ’17 M2 Driver / 9.5° / MRC Kuro Kage Silver TiNi 80XTS
– ’17 M1 Fairways / 17° & 19° / MRC Kuro Kage Silver TiNi 80XTS
– P750 Tour Proto Irons / 3-PW / Nippon N.S. Pro Modus Tour 130x
– Milled Grind Wedges / 54° & 58° / Nippon N.S. Pro Modus Tour 130x
– Spider Tour Red Putter
– TP5 Golf Ball (#49)
– Tour Preferred Glove