Sergio Garcia finally wins a major after epic Masters duel
Five years after claiming he was not good enough to win a major, Sergio Garcia proved himself wrong in thrilling fashion by beating Justin Rose in a play-off for the Masters.
On what would have been the 60th birthday of two-time champion Seve Ballesteros, Garcia became the third Spanish winner at Augusta National with a birdie on the first extra hole following a sensational duel with his Ryder Cup team-mate.
The pair had finished tied on nine under par after closing rounds of 69, with Rose overturning an early three-stroke deficit to lead by a shot after 16 holes, only to bogey the 17th and then fail to convert a birdie attempt from seven feet on the last.
That left Garcia with a chance to win his first major title at the 74th attempt, but his putt from five feet slid past the hole and meant the first play-off at Augusta since Adam Scott beat Angel Cabrera in 2013.
The players returned to the 18th and Rose was unable to save par after pushing his drive into the trees and hitting a poor recovery, but Garcia finished an unforgettable day in style by holing from 12 feet for birdie.
"I felt like this course was probably going to give me one major," said an elated Garcia.
"That thought changed over the years as I started feeling uncomfortable on the course but I came to peace with it and accepted it."
"It has been such a long time coming. I thought I had it on 18. I hit the putt exactly how I wanted but it didn't quite break how I thought.
"I knew I was playing well. I felt the calmest I ever felt in a major. Even after a couple of bogeys I was still positive that there were a lot of holes I could get to. I am so happy.
Garcia's also had some words for his idol Ballesteros, with this tribute to his fellow Spaniard dripping with emotion.
"To do it on his (Seve's) 60th birthday and to join him and Jose Maria Olazabal, my two idols in golf, it is something amazing," he added.
"Jose Maria texted on Thursday saying how much he believed in me and to believe in myself. Everybody has been great. My whole family, my fiance."
Rose was hugely magnanimous in defeat, as he offered up these words of acclaim for Garcia."I'm disappointed but I don't know quote how I feel. It all happens quite quick in a sudden death play-off.
"Sergio had a great comeback by making par on 13 after driving into the trees and that was the turning point for him. At that point i was in control," said the Englishman.
"I hit a really good putt on 18 in regulation play and thought that was going to go in and I guess I under-read my putt in the play-off and that's why it went low.
"But I'm really happy for Sergio. We've been friends for a long time and playing golf against each other since we were 14.
"I'm going to be disappointed for about a month but then golf will take over and I'll go after my goals with the US Open and Open at Royal Birkdale coming up.
"I'm surprised how cool I felt. It's a sign of me maturing as a player. I see myself having many more chances to come at Augusta."
The Twitter tributes to Garcia were not long in coming, with Rory McIlroy leading the way:
2 unbelievable players and 2 great friends, but I couldn't be happier for @TheSergioGarcia. You deserve it all amigo!!— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) April 9, 2017
Congrats @TheSergioGarcia. Well earned.— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) April 9, 2017
Congrats @TheSergioGarcia!! Well deserved and great playing...soak it in my man!!— Rickie Fowler (@RickieFowler) April 9, 2017
Nobody deserves this more@TheSergioGarcia— Thomas Bjørn (@thomasbjorngolf) April 9, 2017
Congrats to Austin's best golfer - @TheSergioGarcia !!— Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) April 9, 2017
Enorme @TheSergioGarcia!!! get in!! Finally his first Major!! Well Deserved..Congrats!!Vamos!!🇪🇸🍳🍳🍺💪👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻— Pepe Reina (@PReina25) April 9, 2017
Hes only gone and done it.... At last. Well played Sergio.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) April 9, 2017