They say good things happen to good people. Well, on a beautiful Sunday evening at Augusta National in Georgia, USA, something spectacular happened to one of Europe’s most gifted golf players of all time. After failing to win in any of his 73 previous appearances at a major tournament, Sergio Garcia beat Englishman Justin Rose in a tense play-off decider to add his name as a winner of the famous green jacket. He now joins fellow Spaniards Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal as a winner of one of sport’s most celebrated title.
The tournament was entertaining from the first to last day, with many memorable moments in-between. After day one, Charley Hoffman had a four-shot lead over second place Patrick Mcgirt and an impressive six shot advantage over Messrs Rose and Garcia. Sheffield’s own Matthew Fitzpatrick, still only 22, as well as golfing legend Phil Mickelson joined Rose and Garcia on -1 after the opening round at Augusta.
At the end of day two, Charley Hoffman was still in the lead, with Garcia, Rickie Fowler and Thomas Pieters – on his masters debut – on his tail. Mcilroy, Mickelson, Rose and Westwood all felt that they had a chance of a green jacket going into moving day on the Saturday. Saturday’s play was to be crucial to the final outcome of the tournament. After some stunning golf, including five birdies in seven holes, Justin Rose was at the top of the leaderboard going into the fourth and final day, just one shot better off than his great friend, and Sunday’s playing partner, Sergio Garcia. Garcia had ridden his luck on Saturday, with many feeling that this could, finally, be his time to shine.
Day four saw a plethora of memorable moments. Matt Kuchar, on the 16th hole, on the par 3, hit a delightful tee shot inch perfect to score a hole-in-one. A special moment for a special player. But this moment was also to be amazing for one young fan. After picking up the ball from the hole, Kuchar signed it with his scoring pen and gave it to a little boy in the crowd. The joy on his face was priceless. It’s what, as legendary commentator Peter Alliss stated, sport is all about. Martin Kaymer, a two-time major champion, scored five birdies in seven holes in a remarkable period, to produce his best finish at Augusta in joint sixteenth place.
But the day was all about Sergio Garcia who started the quicker of him and his partner Justin Rose with a few birdies in the opening few holes. But going into the back nine, Rose had found his best form, taking a two-shot lead with only several holes left to go. However, unfortunately for him, he failed to make the best of a potential four-shot lead, after Garcia produced a Seve-like recovery to par a hole he should have dropped score on. After a stunning eagle on the 15th hole, it really felt like it was going in his favour. And who was the last person to eagle the 15th and win the Masters? Jose Maria Olazabal. The omens were looking good for Garcia. But there was still to be drama. Missing the put which would have won Garcia the masters in regulation play, Rose and the Spaniard were forced into a play-off in sudden death format.
Only one hole was needed. Rose misfired his tee-shot, and even for him, it was a complex position to recover from. His second shot was bizarre and, ultimately, what cost him. His third shot to the green was good, but by that point Garcia was both on the green and in a slightly better putting position. Rose missed his put, meaning the Spaniard had two shots to win the green jacket. After all those years of coming so close, after missing out on the 2007 Open championship in a play-off against Padraig Harrington, Garcia was not going to let this position slip.
One putt was enough. Garcia had done it, he was finally a major winner. He followed in the footsteps of his great friends and idols Seve Ballesteroes and Jose Maria Olazabal. The most gifted player ever to have not won a major – along with Lee Westwood – was finally a winner of one of golf’s majors, and he could not have been more deserving of the title. Justin Rose, naturally, will be disappointed not to have won himself, but the Rio gold medallist and 2013 US Open champion will have many chances in the future to win to don the green jacket. This week, nonetheless, belongs to Garcia, it belongs to hard work, it belongs to never giving up. This one is for you, Seve.
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