Sergio Garcia Outlasts Justin Rose in Epic Battle for Green Jacket

Apr 9, 2017; Augusta, GA, USA; Sergio Garcia celebrates at the green jacket ceremony after winning The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 9, 2017; Augusta, GA, USA; Sergio Garcia celebrates at the green jacket ceremony after winning The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports /

In an epic Masters finale, Sergio Garcia outlasted Justin Rose to win his first major championship.

Sergio Garcia sat in a press conference at Augusta National five years ago and lamented his inability to close the deal. At that time, he didn’t believe he had what it took to win the Masters, or at any other Major championship.

After nearly two decades of near-misses and also-rans, however, Garcia dug deep Sunday and outlasted Justin Rose to win the 2017 Masters Tournament.

Garcia’s hot start gave way to a difficult battle on Augusta’s second nine, as chasers fell off the pace.

Entering Sunday in a tie with Rose at six-under, Garcia took control early. Birdies on the first and third hole gave the 37-year-old a two shot lead over Rose, who began his round with four straight pars.

Sergio Garcia
Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports /

As Rose bogeyed the fifth hole, Garcia expanded his lead with a par. Up three just five shots in, it looked as though Garcia could walk away with the tournament, but Rose bounced back immediately. Three birdies later, they made the turn to the second nine tied at eight-under, three clear of the field.

By this time, the penultimate pairing of Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler had fallen off the pace. Fowler, a popular pick to win his first major this week, got as low as six-under through three holes, but couldn’t keep up.

Spieth, clearly pressing from his first tee shot, made the turn at two-over, got as high as six-over through 14 before rallying back to a semi-respectable plus-three for the round.

Thomas Pieters, Charl Schwartzel, and even Matt Kuchar made some unexpected runs – highlighted by Kuchar’s incredible ace on No. 16 – but in the end, they simply ran out of time.

Sergio’s game came a bit unhinged on the tenth tee, leading to back-to-back bogeys that brought him back to par for the day. Rose relentlessly made par after par, taking a two shot lead as Garcia’s time ran short.

In a two-horse race, Garcia found something extra to stage his comeback.

With nobody left to challenge, most people – myself included – expected Garcia to fall short once again. Rose was simply striking the ball far too well, and with the par-5s still to come, it looked as though Rose could reach -10 with ease, putting Garcia away down the stretch.

Sergio Garcia
Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports /

Garcia made up a shot with a birdie on the par-4 14th, and that’s where the battle took a turn for the dramatic.

Knowing he needed to make up ground in a hurry, Garcia drilled his tee shot on No 15, splitting the fairway of the tournament’s final par-5.

Rose hit his drive short and right of target, and appeared to wince in pain, not even picking up his tee. Still, he recovered quickly, but needed a long iron into the green, leaving himself a nearly unmakeable putt for eagle. Garcia, on the other hand, nearly jarred his approach for a double eagle, and finished the hole with a clutch putt.

The Masters was now tied with three holes to play.

Sergio’s momentum kept him alive through the playoff

As the tournament neared its end, both men hit their tee shots on No. 16 to within 10 feet of the hole. Rose went first, with ice water running through his veins, making his birdie to get to -10. Garcia had the line, but left the putt short to fall back. Earlier in the day, this would have killed him, but playing with his good friend, he appeared to thrive on the pressure.

Observing patiently, Garcia watched as Rose hit his drive on No. 17 right into the pine straw. Rose’s second shot fell into the bunker, and when he couldn’t get up and down for par, the tournament was tied once again.

A battle on the 18th saw both men facing birdie putts that would have won the green jacket. Rose got the “member’s bounce” on approach, watching his shot fade to the right side of the green, only to take a fast hop left to about seven feet. Sergio knocked his approach stiff, inside Rose’s ball.

Both men had what would have otherwise been routine birdie putts. Both missed, and we were on to a playoff.

Sweet redemption on this meaningful anniversary for Garcia

These two men, giving no quarter and asking none, could have played forever, and nobody would have had a problem with it. Returning to the 18th tee box for a sudden death playoff, Rose drew honors, but blocked his tee shot into the pine straw right of the fairway. Garcia, with nerves like he could have never felt before, went right as well, but kept it in the fairway.

Rose attempted a hero shot, choking down on a long iron in an attempt to run his ball up to the green under the pine branches. As it rolled to a stop next to Garcia’s ball, however, the rest seemed little more than a formality.

Rose gave it everything he had, but ultimately left Garcia two putts for the title.

He would only need one.

In the moments that followed, you could literally watch nearly twenty years of frustration and self-doubt melt off of Garcia’s face.

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Even if he never wins another tournament, in many ways, Sergio’s career has been validated. He has now joined his Spanish idols, the late, great Seve Ballesteros and two-time Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal, in this most exclusive of clubs.

Sunday would have been Seve’s 60th birthday. Nineteen years after earning low amateur honors at the Masters and beginning a professional career that was only missing one thing, Sergio closed the circle.

As Danny Willett draped the green jacket over Garcia’s shoulders in Butler Cabin, all was finally right in Garcia’s world. All the years of heckling and drama were erased when the putt fell on that hallowed ground.

Once and for all, his career is complete.

Next: Top Six Major Chokes in Golf History

Did your guy win at Augusta National? Did you enjoy Matt Kuchar’s ace? Do you think that kid in the Sam Snead hat is sleeping with that autographed ball?