Sergio Garcia Finally Wins First Major After 20 Years

Danny Willett presents Sergio Garcia with the Green Jacket after Garcia won in a playoff during the final round of the 2017 Masters Tournament By GETTY IMAGES

AUGUSTA, Ga. – He said he would never win one. They said he was probably right.

He said the golf gods were against him, that bad luck – and not just bad shots – were his undoing. They said he lacked intestinal fortitude. That his natural shot-making ability would put him in contention but when faced with adversity, he would sulk and compound the problem.

They said his window of opportunity was closing, that a bevy of younger stars were filling what once was his domain. He said his life would be no different, that crossing his name off some best-to-never-win list would not define his happiness. But in his heart, the fire always burned.

Garcia's emotion was evident after the win. Pic: Getty

Garcia’s emotion was evident after the win. Pic: Getty

For more than a decade, this conversation took place. But now it’s over, replaced by adoring fans shouting his name.

Sergio Garcia has won a major. On Sunday, he won the Masters.

“Been a long time coming,” he said while slipping on the green jacket at Butler Cabin, having defeated good friend Justin Rose on the first playoff hole after their match play-type battle on the back nine at Augusta National.

It was not his first time inside Butler Cabin. In 1999, he was low amateur, which meant he joined the post-tournament ceremony with one of his idols, fellow Spaniard Jose Maria OIazabal. It was Olazabal’s second Masters win, and Garcia walked away thinking he would one day claim his own green jacket.

But things changed. Garcia began feeling uncomfortable on a course that doesn’t favor his style of play. He hits fades. Augusta National demands draws. Only twice in his first 18 starts did he start the final round inside the top 10. His appearances were mostly exercises in futility.

Five years ago, it boiled over. He told Spanish reporters it would never happen for him. Not only would he not win the Masters – he said he’d never win a major.

Then a funny thing happened to Sergio. The self-described “goofy guy” who can be “hard-headed” stopped fighting and started accepting. He stopped blaming others and started seeking solutions. The petulant man became a peaceful one.

“I accepted what Augusta gives and takes,” he said. “And I think because of that, I’m able to stand here today.”

At no point was that more evident than after consecutive bogeys left him two shots behind playing partner Rose going to the 12th hole. The perfect opportunity for Garcia to unravel had now presented itself. His former self would’ve fallen for the trap. But not this time.

He equaled Rose’s par at 12, then passed the acid test at the par-5 13th with an escape of Ballesteros-like proportions. Finding trouble off the tee, his ball landing under an azelea bush, Garcia had to take a penalty. Yet he still managed par … and then breathed a sigh of relief when Rose failed to convert his 5-foot birdie opportunity.

With new life, Garcia birdied the 14th and eagled the 15th to join Rose as co-leader. By not giving in to negative demons, Garcia’s faith in himself had been rewarded.

“Demonstration of my character and my mentality,” Garcia called it. “How positive I stayed even when things weren’t going that well on 10 and 11.”

Garcia held strong as the golf gods kept testing him. Rose birdied 16 but gave it right back with a bogey at 17. Rose’s approach at 18 drifted right but hit a mound and bounded straight toward the hole, a terrific break. Garcia followed by hitting it stiff. Both players missed their birdie tries, sending it to a sudden-death playoff.

Rose flinched first, his drive finding the pine needles on the right and landing behind a tree. All he could do was punch out. Garcia then followed with the knockout blow, his approach setting up what would be a two-putt par to win. Garcia needed only one of those strokes.

Read more By Mike McAllister at PGATOUR.COM

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