“I’m not good enough for the majors. I don’t have the thing I need to have.”
This was the damning self-assessment of a despondent Sergio Garcia in 2012 after the Spaniard had missed out on Masters glory and, once again, failed to claim what could have been his first major. Fast forward five years and whatever that thing was, Garcia has finally found it. With a newfound grit to his game and a Seve-esque spring in his step, this is the story of how Sergio soared in Augusta.
‘whatever that thing was, Garcia finally found it’
There is no question that Sergio Garcia’s first major win was overdue – it was his 74th attempt after all. Since bursting on to the scene as an inexplicably confident 19-year-old in 1999, Garcia had become locked in a peculiar habit of crumbling at the majors when it mattered most. He would be in contention and then, suddenly, he wouldn’t.
For so long, he lacked the mental strength to break his major duck. A degree of petulance had crept into the Spaniard’s excuses, for example, when he churlishly blamed the Augusta National course for his disappointing rounds of 74 and 75 in the 2009 Masters.
But on Sunday evening, the Spaniard finally buried his demons at Augusta. He sealed his first major win on what would have been the 60th birthday of Seve Ballesteros, the golfing icon who Garcia had taken inspiration from for much of his career. It was one of the great sporting stories.
‘it was one of the great sporting stories’
Much like Seve, Garcia refused to do it the easy way. After breaking away from the field early on Sunday, Garcia and his playing partner Justin Rose embarked on an epic duel that would ebb and flow in the Georgia sun. It quickly became a narrative like no other, with two of the most fitting protagonists.
Garcia drew first blood as he birdied the first and third holes of the final round to secure a two-stroke advantage. But Rose quickly struck back with a hat-trick of consecutive birdies from the sixth onwards. It was this kind of momentum switch that set the tone on a rollercoaster final day, characterised by its many twists and turns.
Whilst Rose was holding firm, Garcia bogeyed on the 10th and 11th and when the Spaniard found the trees on the 13th, a victory suddenly looked improbable. But he fought back to give himself an unlikely par, with Rose three-putting the same hole. The momentum appeared to swing back in Sergio’s favour.
By the time the contest had reached the 15th hole, it was all about Sergio. He out-hit Rose’s drive by some 20 yards, before an imperious swing from the top of the hill set up a 12-foot eagle putt. Garcia putted home, and sealed the deal with a signature fist pump. The crowd roared for Sergio as he went one shot ahead. It felt like a turning point.
However, Rose wasted no time in restoring parity as the Englishman birdied the same hole to set up a thrilling finale. Both hit their tee shots tight at the 16th and as the duo made their way down the fairway, Garcia reached behind to give his friend a high-five. These two golfing titans were celebrating each other’s prowess as much as they were competing for one of the sport’s biggest prizes.
Shortly after this heart-warming display of sportsmanship, Garcia narrowly missed his putt and Rose subsequently pounced to reclaim the driving seat. Then, at the 17th, a strong tee shot from Garcia helped him secure par, whilst Rose was only able to find the bunker on his approach. The Englishman bogeyed to level the scores. One hole to go and this epic battle was impeccably poised.
With it all to play for, both Garcia and Rose played wonderful approaches on the final hole. Rose went within 8-feet from the pin on his second shot. A big moment. But he putted the following effort just wide. Rose put his hand over his mouth and Augusta gasped. It was suddenly on a plate for Garcia, who only needed to putt home from close range to end his drought, but he pulled it wide. Not again, Sergio!
As the golfers made their way back to the tee for the play-off hole, the tension peaked. The Masters has brought us some memorable contests over the years, but this was up there. As the golfers re-emerged, Rose was greeted with an admiring applause but Garcia was ferociously cheered. The Augusta crowd had already picked their winner.
‘The augusta crowd had already picked their winner’
Rose’s tee-shot let him down, whilst Garcia hammered his down the middle of the fairway. It was firmly advantage Sergio. Rose ended with a bogey, giving Garcia two shots to claim that elusive green jacket. But he only needed one. The Spaniard stylishly holed his birdie putt and finally wrote his name into the history books.
The winning putt was greeted with a roar of approval from the Augusta crowd as they hailed their new champion. Sergio was tearful, his wife-to-be, Angela, was tearful.
After 18 years of trying, the nearly man had finally achieved his major destiny.