Garcia defeats Rose to become Masters Champion
Sergio Garcia claimed a sensational maiden major title at the 74th attempt after edging out Justin Rose in a play-off on a memorable final day at the 81st Masters.
Garcia produced a remarkable comeback after seeing a three-shot lead turn into a two-shot deficit with seven holes to play, and the pair both missed great birdie chances on the 72nd hole to take the enthralling duel into sudden-death.
But after returning to the 18th tee, Rose pushed his drive into the pines and could only scuff his second a few yards up the fairway which led to a bogey, and Garcia held his nerve to find the heart of the green in two and hole the putt for victory.
The high emotions were evident as the Spaniard reflected on finally shedding the tag of “best player without a major”, and he did so on what would have been the 60th birthday of his childhood idol, Seve Ballesteros.
An enthralling final day saw Garcia make the brighter start, with his iron-game in good order as he hit approaches in close at the first and third, and he found himself with a three-shot advantage when Rose took three putts on the fifth green.
But the Olympic champion found his range with the putter and fought back with three consecutive birdies from the sixth, and the Ryder Cup team-mates found themselves locked together at eight under heading to the back nine.
Garcia then paid the price for a poor second that finished on the pine straw to the right of the 10th, although he did well to limit the damage to a bogey only to go wayward again at 11 and drop another shot.
The Spaniard then pulled his drive into further trouble at 13 and was forced to take a penalty drop, but he got up and down for a morale-boosting par as Rose missed a great opportunity for birdie.
Spirits restored, Garcia converted a fine approach to six feet at the 14th, and he then hit a magnificent second to similar range at the long 15th, via a soft glance off the flagstick, and nailed the putt for eagle which propelled him back into the lead.
But his time at the top was brief as Rose broke his run of six pars with a nerveless birdie putt, and both contenders then peppered the pin at 16 and the Englishman piled on the pressure when he holed his slippery birdie putt.
Garcia’s tentative putt rolled across the face of the hole to gift Rose a one-shot lead with two to play, and Rose then bunkered his second to 17 and splashed out to six feet before the putt for par shaved the edge of the cup and stayed out.
Garcia’s cast-iron par took them down 18 all square and the gripping tension intensified when Rose blocked his approach to the last and caught a huge break as his ball kicked off bank of the right bunker and rolled down to within 10 feet of the hole.
But Garcia produced a sensational response, clipping a 142-yard short-iron straight at the flag and leaving himself less than six feet for birdie.
Rose hit a good putt but read just too much break into it and watched his ball slide past the right edge, and Garcia did exactly the same, sending them into the first Masters play-off since Adam Scott pipped Angel Cabrera in 2013.
Expected challenges from Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler never materialised, with Spieth struggling to six over for the day when he found the water at 12 for the second Masters Sunday running, although he did birdie three of the last four holes for a 75, while Fowler bogeyed the last three to card a disappointing 76.
Rory McIlroy started the day six shots adrift and admitted he needed “the round of my life” to contend, but his latest bid to complete the career grand slam of majors ended with a solid three-under 69 – three under par for the tournament.
Charl Schwartzel won the race for second as the 2011 champion made his sixth birdie at the last to cap a 68, knocking Matt Kuchar and Thomas Pieters into a share of fourth on five under, with Paul Casey recording a second straight top-10 finish with a 68 lifting him to four under par.