Sergio Garcia’s US Masters victory has broken one of the longest droughts in major championship history and given the Spaniard the major that everyone in the golfing world had expected to come much earlier in his career.
Since bursting onto the international stage and finishing second as a 19 year old in the 1999 US PGA Championship, Garcia has risen to become one of the best players in the world. His ball striking from tee to green is one of the best in the game but his putting has so often been his Achilles heel and cost him more than one major championship in the past.
This Masters saw a more consistent performance from Garcia with the flat stick and he opened with rounds of 71 and 69 to easily make the cut for the weekend. With a round of 70 on Saturday, he was tied for the lead at six under and playing in the final pairing with Englishman Justin Rose on Sunday.
The final round was set up superbly with many of the world’s best players in contention, including some former Masters champions. 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel, Australia’s Adam Scott who won in 2013 and Jordan Spieth, who ran away with the 2015 edition, were all chasing the lead duo.
But as is so often the case at Augusta, the final paring was to produce the winner, and after both Garcia and Rose produced solid front nine’s, the contest was heading for a matchplay style shootout.
Rose landed the first blows early during the back nine and held a two shot lead. If not for some typically dogged fighting play from Garcia, Rose could have found himself enjoying an even greater cushion. However, after a magical approach to the par 5, 15th which set up an incredible eagle, the momentum swung to Garcia and he managed to level the score. Both men hit superb tee shots to the par 3, 16th but only Rose could convert his birdie opportunity. Again, the Spaniard fought back and levelled after 17, and he should have closed the tournament out with a relatively short birdie putt on the last, but he pushed the ball to the right of the hole. The Sergio wobbles appeared to be reappearing.
It was Rose who faltered though, with a wayward drive on the first playoff hole finding trees to the right of the fairway and he was forced to punch an iron out under some overhanging limbs. His contact wasn’t good and he only managed to progress his ball metres past Sergio’s, who had split the fairway and left himself in perfect position for his second. With an approach shot to 12 feet, the pressure was then all on the Englishman, and although Rose found the green with his third, he was unable to make par and put any kind of pressure on Sergio who then had two putts for victory – of which he only needed one.
The Masters once again provided a fantastic test of golf and great viewing for millions of people all around the world. It is a tournament high on the wish list of many golfers, and those who make the pilgrimage to the hallowed fairways of Augusta National Golf Club are always amazed at the conditioning and challenge of the course and the way at which the best in the game are able to negotiate their way around it.
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