Review of Sergio's Magical Masters Triumph
HE HAD come up short 73 times previously, so why would anybody believe that things should be different for Sergio Garcia when he arrived at Augusta for The Masters in 2017?
After all, you don’t win the first major of the year unless you can putt, and everybody knows that the Spaniard can’t putt. Really? Let me tell you something about Garcia. As things stand today, he has won 14 times on the European Tour, 10 times on the PGA Tour, once on the Japanese Tour and six times on the Asian Tour. There have also been five “other” victories. In case you have trouble with your maths, let me help you – he has won 36 tournaments and has been a stalwart of Europe’s Ryder Cup team on eight occasions. You still think he can’t putt?
But his record in The Masters had been pretty ordinary, to say the least. In 17 previous appearances, he had managed just three top-10 finishes, with a best of tied fourth in 2004. So it is safe to say that this wasn’t his favourite major. He has a very different pinion now, of course.
Something happened to Garcia at Augusta in 2017, something even he might not be able to put his finger on. He arrived at the tournament with his personal life in great shape as he prepared to marry his fiancee, Angela Akins, later in the year. There was a calmness about him that we hadn’t seen before. Earlier in the year he had won the Dubai Desert Classic in some style.
And on Sunday, April 9, he finally did it. Garcia landed his first major at his 74th attempt with victory on the first hole of a playoff against Justin Rose, of England. Earlier in his career, Garcia had won few friends after reacting like a spoilt child when Padraig Harrington beat him at the 2007 Open and again at the 2008 US PGA. Rose, however, handled himself impeccably, saying that if he couldn’t win, he was genuinely delighted to see Garcia do so. And he meant it.
Garcia’s victory came on what would have been Seve Ballesteros’ 60th birthday and much was made of this by the media. The reality is that Garcia was not particularly close to Ballesteros and was clearly uncomfortable at how much was made of this by journalists in his post-victory press conference. Garcia wanted it to be known that he is his own man and that although he respected Seve, the great man played little or no part in shaping his career.
He shot rounds of 71-69-70 over the first three rounds to enter the final round at six-under par, sharing the lead with Rose. The pair played together in the final group, with most onlookers expecting the Spaniard to find a way to lose another major. It was the second time he had gone into the final round leading a major after The Open in 2007.
He began the final round well, however, with two birdies on his opening three holes and moved into a three-shot lead early on. But Rose refused to go away and by the time Garcia dropped shots in the 10th and 11th holes, it was Rose who led by two.
Then came the par-five 13th. Garcia hooked his drive way left and when he got to his ball he discovered that it was unplayable. It looked like another tournament was about to slip away from his grasp. The Spaniard took a penalty drop and somehow managed to par the hole, while Rose missed a short birdie putt.
García took full advantage, with a birdie at the 14th and a magnificent eagle at the par-five 15th. With three holes to play, the two Europeans were tied for the lead again. They then both hit their tee shots close at the 16th, but only Rose converted, to again lead by one, but he dropped a shot at the 17th and they were tied again heading up the 72nd fairway. Both players hit their approach shots close on the 18th green, but Rose burnt the lip with his birdie putt. García had a five-foot putt to win but looked on in horror as it missed to the right. They were level on nine under par after 72 holes.
Back they went to the 18th tee. Rose hit his drive right, into the pine straw, meaning his second shot was blocked off by trees, so could only advance his ball 50 yards or so. He played his third to a similar area of the green he had during regulation play. García hit his approach to within 12 feet. Rose's putt for par missed on the left side of the hole, leaving García with two putts for the win. He only needed one. Moments later, 2016 champion Danny Willett was helping Garcia into the Green Jacket.
Finally, he was a major champion.
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