By Thomas Dodd
- Spaniard Sergio Garcia claims first major title at 74th attempt at 2017 Masters
- Garcia defeated Englishman and Olympic champion Justin Rose on first play-off hole to win the green jacket
- Golfing world overjoyed for popular seasoned-campaigner who was long considered one of the best to never win one of golf’s biggest prizes.
AUGUSTA, USA – Sergio Garcia has long been seen as the best player in the game to not win a major. All that changed on Sunday afternoon in Georgia, as the very popular Spaniard was the last man standing at Augusta National.
Sportsmen and women these days are often described as being deserving of success – whether that comes from their work rate, raw talent or past near misses. But sport is also cruel, and every achievement, title and win must simply be earned. Writers, fans and players in the golfing world had long argued Sergio Garcia ‘deserved’ to win a major title. On Sunday at Augusta, the 37-year-old Spaniard went out and earned his crown.
At the the 74th attempt, one of the most likeable characters on the Tour, who openly admitted several years ago that he no longer played in majors to win them, was the epitomy of calmness mixed with resilience as he banished numerous demons which threatened to plague him until the end of a career that appeared destined to end majorless.
When Garcia rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the first play-off hole, the emotion was clear to see, and the smile stayed etched across the Spaniard’s face throughout the green jacket ceremony in the Butler Cabin and then on the final green. A man, so often on the wrong side of a collapse, had finally stood firm and realised his dream.
The opponent on the receiving end was England’s Justin Rose, who led for much of the final day at Augusta National but ultimately fell short in a back and forth duel down the stretch among the tall Georgia pines as the shadows lengthened. 2013 US Open champion Rose had a chance to take a three shot lead on the par-5 13th hole. The Olympic champion missed from 10ft after watching his Ryder Cup teammate and playing partner hole a lengthy putt for an unlikely par. A birdie for Garcia followed on the 14th and when he holed a fifteen footer for a sensational eagle 3 on fifteen the pair were tied.
It’s widely acknowledged the club which has held Garcia back over the years is his putter. He famously missed a make-able six footer to win the 2007 Open Championship, and missed from three feet on the 71st hole of the 2008 PGA Championship. The woes with the flat-stick had explained why Garcia could lay claim to 22 top 10 major finishes, but no elusive ‘W’ on his CV. He seemed ready to vanquish those demons with his efforts on the back nine on Sunday, before a short miss from five feet on 16 and a very nervy putt for the win on the 18th that didn’t even touch the hole, seemed to swing the momentum back to Rose. When the Englishman made a mess of his drive on the opening hole of sudden death, Garcia calmly stepped up and made his dreams come true.
The straight out shootout between the two Ryder Cup pals had encapsulated the world of golf and social media, with World number two Rory Mcilroy tweeting: “Let him have one….VAMOS”, and support for the Spaniard was overwhelming. Not that Rose would have been begrudged a victory, but Garcia was an incredibly popular victor.
Let him have one…. VAMOS!!!
— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) April 9, 2017
It won’t go down as one of the most memorable final days at Augusta, and indeed the drama and tension was in part down to missed putts following stellar iron play as opposed to clutch hole-outs but there could be no doubt both Rose and Garcia had earned the right to distance themselves from the rest of the field over the course of the first 63 holes.
The fairytale comes in the shape of Sergio’s resilience. Bogeys at 10, 11 and a poor drive at 13 appeared to have resigned the nearly man to another runner-up finish, but sheer willingness to not cave in and retreat as in so many previous majors stood out to make it one of golf’s best feel good factor stories in recent memory. You sensed no one else in the field would have received such an outpouring of congratulation in the aftermath of victory being sealed.
Garcia becomes the third Spaniard to wear the green jacket, after Jose Maria Olazabal – the last man to eagle 15 in the final round and go on to wear the coveted green jacket, and Seve Ballesteros, who fittingly would have been 60 on Sunday. He would have been proud.
Congrats @TheSergioGarcia. Well earned.
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) April 9, 2017
Ironically, if one is to ignore the idea that a sportsman can simply deserve a title before they win one, it was perhaps Garcia’s oldest foe who summed up Sunday’s win better than anyone else. Tiger Woods, exiled to the role of spectator following yet more back issues, also took to social media and tweeted “Congrats @TheSergioGarcia. Well earned.”
It was not the most jovial of messages, it was in fact very much in-keeping with Tiger’s stoic demeanour in light of a rival claiming victory, but it en-captured what he and perhaps Garcia now appreciates more than ever – nothing in golf is actually ‘deserved’ until it has been accomplished.
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