Masters highlights: Watch Sergio Garcia go from near collapse to major champion

Sergio Garcia fell behind Justin Rose on the second nine of the 2017 Masters and needed a spark. We have the image of his birdie putt sneaking in on the first playoff hole now to cement Garcia as a Masters champion with the major win drought snapped at 74 starts, but earlier on Sunday afternoon, the win was in doubt.

Garcia carded back-to-back bogeys on 10 and 11, and for a moment, the 2017 Masters appeared destined to join the other chapters of heartbreak in his career. Another top-10 was a lock, while the rest of the field fell behind the final pairing, but two bogeys to open the second nine put Rose on a fast track to victory.

Then, Garcia responded with an incredible turn that started with drama. At No. 13, a bad lie led Garcia to take a drop and fall a stroke off the pace, definitely out of scoring position on the par-5 Amen Corner exit hole. Garcia saved par with an awesome up-and-down from 89 yards out.

The momentum from that seven-foot par putt carried over to the next two holes. First was a birdie on the par-4 14th.

Then came the most dramatic development yet in the championship chase, an eagle on No. 15, the same hole where Rose started his own run of birdies. The roars from the patrons when the eagle dropped for Garcia were among the loudest of the day, and a moment that will forever be tied to Garcia and his 2017 Masters run.

It was Garcia’s first eagle in his last 452 holes at the Masters.

Rose had his own answer with a birdie on 15 after Garcia’s eagle and then another birdie on 16, but a bogey on 17 set the stage for a final hole duel.

Twice on 18 (the 72nd and 73rd hole), Garcia was the king of the moment, dropping a pair of approach shots that won him the tournament. But before Sergio’s long winning putt dropped, there was a miss from five feet that sent the competition to a playoff.

Rose hit his tee shot to open the playoff into the woods and short of Garcia, then punched out to Garcia’s feet. With a one-stroke advantage on the hole, Garcia went on to deliver another clutch approach into the green and this time buried his birdie putt to win.

Garcia had finished in the top-10 at Augusta three times (2002, 2004, 2013), has the most career top-10s in majors all-time, and now he joins his idols Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal as one of three Spaniards to win the Masters.

Sergio García after making a birdie putt on the first extra hole Sunday to win the Masters, his first victory in 74 starts at a major. García and Justin Rose each finished regulation at nine under par. Credit Tannen Maury/European Pressphoto Agency

Masters 2017: Sergio Garcia pips Justin Rose to win at Augusta

-9 Garcia (Spa)*, Rose (Eng); -6 Schwartzel (SA); -5 Kuchar (US), Pieters (Bel); -4 Casey (Eng); -3 Chappell (US), McIlroy (NI); -2 Scott (Aus), Moore (US)
Selected others: -1 Fowler (US), Spieth (US); Level Kaymer (Ger); +1 Couples (US), Westwood (Eng); +2 Day (Aus), Mickelson (US)
*winner after sudden-death play-off

Spain's Sergio Garcia won his first major title at his 74th attempt with a thrilling play-off victory over England's Justin Rose at the Masters.

Both players finished on nine under par after 72 holes at Augusta, setting up a sudden-death play-off on the 18th.

Garcia, 37, holed a birdie putt for victory after his European Ryder Cup team-mate could only manage a bogey.

Charl Schwartzel was third on six under with England's Paul Casey and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy in the top 10.

Jordan Spieth, one of the pre-tournament favourites, and fellow American Rickie Fowler both fell away badly on the final day.

Spieth, champion in 2015, signed for a three-over-par 75, while playing partner Fowler carded a 76 to finish tied in 11th on one under.

Garcia finally won one of golf's four majors - the Open Championship, the US Open and the US PGA Championship are the other three - after 22 previous top-10 finishes.

He became the third Spaniard to win the Masters - after Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal - on what would have been the 60th birthday of Ballesteros, who died in 2011.

"To join Seve and Jose - my two idols - is amazing," said Garcia.

How the play-off unfolded

Shot one: Rose teed off first on the 18th, pushing his drive right into the trees, only for his ball to bounce back towards play and reappear in the pine needles.

Garcia thumped his drive almost 300 yards down the fairway.

Shot two: Rose could only punch his way out of trouble onto the fairway, while Garcia landed his approach on the green, 12 feet from the hole.

Shot three: The Englishman responded by hitting his ball about 15 foot to the right of the hole - on a similar line to his putt in regulation play about 15 minutes earlier.

Rose missed his par putt to the left of the hole, leaving Garcia two shots for victory and the Spaniard rolled in his first attempt, with his ball circling the cup before dropping in.

Garcia dropped to his knees in celebration, and Rose instantly walked over to congratulate him as they shared a warm embrace on the green.

'Calm' Garcia proves the doubters wrong

Garcia and Rose, who started playing against each other as teenagers and have become firm friends since, went out as Sunday's final pairing after sharing the overnight lead on six under.

Rose has long craved a follow-up victory to his 2013 US Open win, in order to go down in history as a multiple major champion. For Garcia, the stakes were even higher.

Not only was the Spaniard aiming to win his first major, he was also trying to prove that he had the mental resilience to triumph.

What followed was an intense battle filled with drama and tension.

Garcia started strongly with birdies on the first and third, opening up a three-shot lead on Rose after he bogeyed the fifth.

But the Englishman replied with three straight birdies to rejoin his playing partner on eight under at the turn.

Garcia bogeyed the 10th to give Rose the outright lead, then appeared to lose his composure when he pulled his tee shot into the trees on the par-five 13th. He was forced to take a one-shot penalty because of an unplayable lie, but scrambled well to save par.

This sparked his revival, A remarkable eagle on the par-five 15th - his first in 452 holes at Augusta - followed by a Rose birdie, meant the pair were tied on nine under with three to play.

Garcia pushed a short birdie putt right on the par-three 16th after Rose had holed his to open a one-shot lead, only for the Englishman to bogey the 17th.

Both players missed birdie putts on the last, Garcia from four feet, setting up the first Masters play-off between two European players, which Garcia nicked in fading light.

"It has been such a long time coming," said the world number 11, who will rise into the top 10 on Monday.

"I knew I was playing well. I felt the calmest I ever felt in a major."

Rose 'disappointed' at another close miss

While Garcia was being presented with the Green Jacket in the Augusta clubhouse, Rose was left rueing another near miss.

The Olympic champion has not claimed a major since winning the 2013 US Open, but lifted himself into contention for a first Masters title with five birdies in the final seven holes on Saturday.

But Rose, who also finished second behind Spieth in 2015, had to settle for a fifth top-10 finish at Augusta National.

"It is disappointing to come so close," said the world number 14. "I felt in control until the end.

"But I'm really happy for Sergio. I'd love to be wearing the Green Jacket but if it wasn't me then I'm glad it is him."

McIlroy still searching for 'Rory Slam'

World number two McIlroy's ambition of becoming only the sixth man to win all four majors must wait for at least another year.

The 27-year-old, who has already won the Open, US Open and two US PGA Championship titles, battled back from three over par after eight holes on Thursday to finish three under after a closing 69.

"It wasn't quite good enough. I felt like I had an opportunity on Saturday to shoot something in the mid-60s which would have got me closer to the lead and I didn't quite do that," said McIlroy.

"I gave a decent account of myself and will come back next year and try again."

Casey, 39, carded four birdies in a bogey-free front nine to move into contention at four under, but could not improve that score as he shot 68 to earn his fourth top-10 finish at Augusta.

South Africa's Schwartzel, the 2011 champion, holed five birdies in the final 10 holes to finish with a 68, while American Matt Kuchar aced the 16th - the only hole-in-one of the week - on his way to the day's joint best round of 67.

He finished tied fourth on five under with Belgian Thomas Pieters, who impressed on his Masters debut.

Two-time major winner Spieth was hoping to banish memories of last year's spectacular final-day collapse at the 12th by winning his second Masters.

But the 23-year-old American, who was already three over for the day and well down the leaderboard, saw his challenge completely disappear on the iconic par-three when he again knocked his tee-shot into the water guarding the green.

It is the first time in his four Masters appearance the 2015 champion has not finished in the top two.

Spieth's playing partner Fowler started one shot off the lead as he targeted his first major, only to rack up seven bogeys in a disappointing round.

Fellow American Fred Couples, the 57-year-old who won the Masters in 1992, ended up tied 18th at one over.


Ken Brown, BBC golf commentator:

"It was an electrifying final day. It was a duel of the highest quality, top sportsmanship and both Sergio and Justin take great credit.

"I think the golfing world thinks 'well, Justin has a major, it is time for Sergio to win one'.

"He thoroughly deserves it, he has been a champion golfer and in the top 20 of the world for virtually 20 years."

Masters 2017: Sergio García Finally Wins First Major Title

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The Arnold Palmer of Europe was Seve Ballesteros, who was very, very good when he hit his drives straight and even better when they went crooked. In 1980, three months after Sergio García was born, Ballesteros won the first of his two Masters titles.

Like generations of American players who loved Palmer, García grew up wanting to be like the swashbuckling Ballesteros, whose influence on García’s golf and his life was immense. Nearly six years after Ballesteros died of brain cancer, on what would have been his 60th birthday, García conquered Justin Rose, Augusta National Golf Club and his demons — not necessarily in that order — to win the 81st Masters.

It was García’s first major title in his 74th start, and perhaps fittingly, he had to go an extra hole to secure it after missing a seven-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole that would have ended the tournament in regulation. When his ball steered clear of the hole, it might have conjured memories of the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie, where García also had a putt for victory at the 72nd hole, missed it and then lost in a playoff to Padraig Harrington.

But García’s mind was uncluttered as he and Rose signed for their closing three-under 69s to finish 72 holes at nine under, then headed to the 18th hole for the playoff.

Maybe it was because he had felt Ballesteros’s presence all week, but García, 37, said he felt serene.

Whatever happened, García told himself, he would drive out Magnolia Lane at the end of his 19th Masters appearance having improved upon his career-best fourth-place finish from 2004.

“I felt much calmer than I felt on any major championship Sunday,” García said.

Though García and Rose are longtime friends and Ryder Cup teammates, they could not approach golf courses more differently. Rose is the artist who studiously stays inside the lines; García is the one who follows lines that few others see.

But on the first hole of the playoff, García was the one whose drive found the fairway while Rose’s ball ricocheted off a tree and came to rest in the pine needles, in front of a pine cone. Rose’s pitch landed short of the green while García stuck his approach to 12 feet, eliciting a thumbs-up from Rose. He gallantly hung back to give García the stage to himself, allowing him to bask in applause that had been building for decades.

After Rose tapped in for bogey, the spotlight belonged to García, who rammed in his birdie attempt, and then squatted in relief — or maybe disbelief.

It was the first Masters since 1954 without Palmer, the golf’s first global ambassador, and there could have been no better tribute to his legacy than the partisan American crowd sweetly serenading a Spaniard as if he were its own.

That it took this long for García to join Ballesteros and another beloved countryman, José María Olazábal, as major champions would have been hard to conceive in 1999 when García burst onto the scene as a teenager with a runner-up finish to Tiger Woods at the P.G.A. Championship.

“Obviously, this is something I wanted to do for a long time,” García said, “but, you know, it never felt like a horror movie. It felt like a little bit of a drama, but obviously with a happy ending.”

García and Rose finished three shots ahead of Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 champion, who carded a 68 to finish alone in third.

Two young American stars, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, were paired together in the penultimate twosome. Unlike the European duo of Rose and García, they did not spur each other to greatness, or even goodness. Spieth carded a 75, and that was with birdies on three of the last four holes. Fowler, who was bidding to win his first major, had seven bogeys, including bogeys on the last three holes, for a 76. Though they started Sunday within two shots of the lead, Fowler and Spieth finished eight strokes behind García and Rose.

“I’m really happy with the way that we finished this round to get back to red, because for a while there, it was just, you know, what are we doing?” Spieth said.

Second-ranked Rory McIlroy, seeking his first Masters title to complete a career Grand Slam, carded a quiet 69, with four birdies and one bogey, to finish in a tie for seventh with Kevin Chappell.

Unlike Spieth, who was trying to become the first man to win a major with a quadruple bogey on his card, McIlroy did not implode on any holes.

“I didn’t shoot any nine-hole scores that were in the 40s,” he said. “It was quite a consistent, steady Masters for me.”

McIlroy produced no spectacular moments like Matt Kuchar, whose back-nine 31 included an ace on the par-3 16th, which historically has given him fits. Before Sunday, his cumulative score on the hole was three over.

“What a thrill,” said Kuchar, who posted a 67 to finish tied for fourth, at five under, with the Masters rookie Thomas Pieters.

Rose, who won the 2013 United States Open at Merion Golf Club, another classic layout, dearly wanted to win at Augusta National and join a club of champions that includes his countryman, Nick Faldo, a three-time winner. In 2015, Rose broke par all four rounds here and finished 14 under par. His score would have been good enough for the victory or a spot in a playoff in all but six of the majors that have been contested here. But Rose’s reward was the best view of Spieth’s coronation.

Two years later, he had the best seat for a crowning of another kind.

“I’m disappointed, but hopefully it’s a Masters that is remembered fondly,” Rose said, adding that he “couldn’t be more pleased” for García.

“You don’t want to lose,” Rose added, “but it hurt less to lose to him.”

It is unquestionably the high mark of García’s career, but his first major title may not even be the highlight of his year. In July, he is set to wed Angela Akins, whom he met when she was an on-air reporter for Golf Channel. Akins, who played golf at Texas Christian, affixed Post-it notes with sunny messages in places like the bathroom mirror where García was sure to see them.

Her positivity helped García, whose negativity toward Augusta National ran so deep that he once declared after a round here that he would never win a major because he lacked “the thing I need to have.”

Now that he has a green jacket, García will not have to hear that he is the best player never to win a major.

“I don’t know if I’ll be the best player to have only won one major,” he said, smiling, “but I can live with that.”

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