Improbable par propels Garcia to first major title
April 09, 2017
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose went back-and-forth in a memorable Sunday duel at Augusta National GC. (Harry How/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, Ga. – News and notes from Sunday’s final round of the Masters where Sergio Garcia prevailed in an epic dual with Justin Rose to win his first major title in what was his 74th major championship.
Garcia claimed the green jacket with a birdie on the first sudden-death playoff hole at Augusta National after the pair went back-and-forth throughout a wild Sunday.
Click here for a full recap.
AZALEA A THORN FOR ROSE, SWING HOLE FOR SERGIO
The par-5 13th hole at Augusta National is called Azalea for the beautiful flowers that are iconic on the property, and it appeared it would be the hole to lock things up for the aptly named Rose.
Instead it was the scene of the momentum shifting away from Rose and back to Garcia.
Up by two shots at the time, Rose looked in great shape in the fairway after a nice drive – particularly as Garcia had attempted a bold line over the trees and instead ended up in an unplayable lie.
A penalty drop in the pine straw followed, and Garcia had to lay up from there.
Rose meanwhile lined up his second shot from 186 yards out and let it rip.
“I hit a really good iron shot into 13. I was playing for a little backstop behind the hole, hit a great shot and unfortunately it carried too far and set up a tough two-putt,” Rose said.
Indeed, the shot soared just a little far and rested on the back fringe. The lightning-quick lag putt for eagle was a good one, leaving a 6-foot birdie try back up the hill.
Sergio’s fourth was good enough to leave 8 feet for par. He made it.
“That par save there was big,” Garcia admitted.
Rose then missed. He still led by two. But Garcia had life. And momentum. Two holes later he was tied for the lead.
“That little two-shot swing there was kind of when he was back in the tournament,” Rose admitted.
“I feel like if he misses at that point, I make, I'm four clear and I've got my eye on Thomas Pieters and Matt Kuchar instead.”
An emotional round for the ages.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 10, 2017
Highlights galore from Sergio on Sunday: pic.twitter.com/IPZ4RrlANh
SURPRISE FADE OUT
The biggest surprise on Masters Sunday was not Garcia’s fightback after adversity – it was the fact the penultimate pairing of Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler were never really in the mix.
Fowler started Sunday just a shot off the lead and Spieth was two back.
Fowler led the field in strokes gained: putting coming into Sunday.
Spieth had clawed back despite a quadruple-bogey nine on Thursday. His record read 2-1-2 in his previous three Masters.
Fowler birdied the third hole to move onto the periphery of the challenge, but he followed it up with back-to-back bogeys and was pushing uphill from then on.
At the end of the day he blew out with a back-nine 40 to finish T11.
Spieth began bogey-birdie-bogey and turned in 2-over 38 to stand well back. A bogey on 10 followed before – a year after his famous quadruple-bogey 7 at the par-3 12th – the Texan rinsed another tee shot at the iconic hole.
The double bogey and another bogey on 14 had him balloon to 4 over for the tournament.
Three late birdies returned some respectability to his card.
“I wasn't doing much wrong. And that's what was so tough. I didn't feel like I was doing much wrong and I just look up and it just wasn't landing where I thought it would,” Spieth said.
“I feel bad I went so downhill while Rickie was still in it there, because it is tough when you don't see a ball go in the hole.
“And when I was out of it, I was his biggest cheerleader, just being really good friends with Rickie, and it was tough. I don't think I helped him whatsoever on the round. And I felt like if I was able to hang in there and we were able to feed off each other, then we would have been able to push through like you saw Sergio and Justin able to do.
“We could have definitely done that today. We're both capable of it, the stage wasn't too big … it just didn't quite happen.”
Sergio gets it done, a playoff for the ages & Kuch's ace
ROSE CONFIDENT OF RETURN RUN
It is no doubt a bitter pill to swallow for runner-up Justin Rose, who led by two shots with five holes to play and one with two to play before Garcia fought back.
But the 2013 U.S. Open winner, who has now been the runner-up at Augusta National twice in the last three years, was trying to remain as upbeat as possible.
“Before I won at Merion, (I said), ‘You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,’” he said.
“You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.
“It's going to sting for sure. But I really feel like this is a tournament that I can still go on to win. I'd like to win three or four green jackets, but one would be enough. I just want to win here.”
The 36-year-old Englishman was already looking to use the positives moving forward as he heads towards THE PLAYERS Championship, further majors and the race for the FedExCup.
“For me, golf is about April to September. That's where the big tournaments are. That's where the tournaments that change your career are,” he said.
“I feel motivated for the summer, and I will be moving on and setting goals very quickly after this.”
IN AND OUT
Masters berths can be hard to come by for many players, and Sunday’s final round saw a handful of players cement a 2018 invitation for finishing inside the top 12 – while some others let their first chance to return slip away.
While the likes of Justin Rose (second), Rory McIlroy (T7), Hideki Matsuyama (T11) and Rickie Fowler (T11) would almost certainly get invites through other methods, and former champions Jordan Spieth (T11), Adam Scott (T9) and Charl Schwartzel (third) are in for life, others also stepped up to secure starts.
Matt Kuchar (T4) will get to return for a 12th time, Thomas Pieters’ (T4) Masters debut was a beauty and he will be coming back, and Paul Casey (sixth) made it a third top-10 at Augusta National in a row.
Kevin Chappell (T7) had returned for his second Masters (2012) this year and will now get a third, and Ryan Moore (T9) will get to double digits with a 10th Masters start next year.
Brooks Koepka (T11) will now make it four Masters in a row next year and Russell Henley will not need to rely on a last-minute win at the Shell Houston Open – like he did this year – after his T11 result.
Trying to go back-to-back can be tiring.
“Had my best finish here. I’m excited,” Henley beamed.
“I'm definitely very hyped up to be here at Augusta, but winning the tournament, being in contention, takes a lot out of me. And I might be a little tired.
“But overall a great week and excited to move forward.”
It was a rough day for Lee Westwood (T18), William McGirt (T22) and Charley Hoffman (T22) who all shot over-par rounds to drop out of the invite bracket.
GEE WHIZ, AN ACE
Outside of Sergio Garcia, you might be hard-pressed to find a happier person than a young fan behind the 16th green on Sunday at Augusta National who was the beneficiary of a signed ball from Matt Kuchar.
Now, signed balls are not all that uncommon – but balls that were used to make an ace on Sunday at No. 16 in the Masters … well, that’s another story.
Kuchar certainly gave us a sense of what could happen on the back nine with a blistering 31 that included an ace on the par-3 16th with his 7-iron.
With three birdies, a par and the eagle ace, Kuchar’s scorecard had a 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 on it in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12 to 16.
The round of 5-under 67 helped him post the early clubhouse mark at 5 under and eventually saw him finish T4, his fourth top 10 at the Masters and best finish since a career-best T3 in 2012.
“What a thrill. It's funny, that hole has given me problems in the past. I said, ‘This year, go ahead and release it, don't worry about the water,’ and I just flushed a shot that went straight at it and it looked great the whole way,” Kuchar said.
“The cool part of our job is making a kid's day. And we have an opportunity to do that quite often. I figured this would make a kid's day and make a kid's year. I think you see kids of a certain age and you know that a memento will be special to them.”
Expect a rush on Sam Snead hats from the youngsters before next year’s Masters, as Kuchar admitted the iconic headwear helped highlight the lucky patron.
ODDS AND ENDS
The eventual Masters champion has come out of the final Sunday pairing in 22 out of the last 27 years, with Zach Johnson (2007), Charl Schwartzel (2011), Bubba Watson (2012), Adam Scott (2013) and Danny Willett (2016) the exceptions.
Hideki Matsuyama clawed within 82 points on Dustin Johnson’s lead atop the FedExCup standings. Sergio Garcia moved to 12th, and Justin Rose to moved to ninth.
Adam Scott, the 2013 champ, will be hoping to lift his putting next time he returns to Augusta National. He finished seven shots off the playoff, having missed five putts inside 5 feet and nine putts from 5 to 10 feet.
Stewart Hagestad claimed low amateur honors and a trip to Butler Cabin for the Silver Medal with his 74-73-74-73 performance leaving him at 6 over. Impressively, the U.S. Mid-Amateur champion kept his card clear of double bogeys or worse the entire tournament. He beat out U.S. Amateur and Asia-Pacific Amateur champion Curtis Luck, who shot 78-72-75-72 to finish at 9 over.
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Congrats @TheSergioGarcia!! Well deserved and great playing...soak it in my man!!— Rickie Fowler (@RickieFowler) April 9, 2017
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