AUGUSTA, Ga. — Sergio Garcia was falling apart on the back nine, again. How many times had we seen this before? He himself said five years ago that he wasn’t good enough to win a major, and here he was, proving it once more. The jokes were coming so easily on social media. That Sergio Garcia, a loser again.
And then. And then! Sergio was fighting back. Down two strokes with five holes to go, he all of a sudden was tied with Justin Rose with three holes to go. He wasn’t done yet. It was Sergio who was firing at the pin. It was he who was draining an eagle putt on 15. It was Sergio with the momentum, Sergio with the chance to win.
And win he did. It’s still hard to believe it happened, but it surely did. The 37-year-old Garcia, the man who always figured out a way to not win, the lovable loser who was 0-for-73 in majors in his 18-year career — that guy just won the Masters.
“I knew I was playing well, I was very calm, much calmer than I’ve felt probably in any major championship on Sunday,” Garcia said afterward. “This was a demonstration of my character and my mentality, how positive I stayed even when things were not going that well today. I was kind of accepting, too, that if for some reason it didn’t happen, my life would go on and somehow it wouldn’t be a disaster.”
There was no doubt that victory was there for him, right there. And, for the first time ever, Sergio did not throw it away. Instead of squandering his chances, Sergio rose to the occasion, hitting shot after shot that no one expected — probably including himself — until he worked his way to the first playoff hole against Rose, his dear friend and Ryder Cup teammate.
With Rose in some trouble, punching out from the rough, Garcia played a majestic final hole under the weight of all the pressure in the world, hitting his approach to within 12 feet, then drilling the birdie putt home to win the Masters. It had really happened. He had done it.
Sergio bent over, low to the ground, his fists balled up in joy. He couldn’t believe it. Could any of us believe it either?
“It has been such a long time coming,” he said. “I know I can be a hard-headed man sometimes. … There has been a little bit of drama in my career, but obviously with a happy ending.”
“If there’s anyone to lose to,” Rose said, “it would be Sergio. He’s had his fair share of heartbreak.”
Oh my, you can say that again.
Garcia made the turn Sunday tied for the lead with Rose and immediately went all Shakespearian on us. There was a terrible, short tee shot on the 10th hole, followed by that well-known Sergio tradition of backing away from his second shot, his thoughts getting the best of him. Uh oh, here we go again. That led to his first bogey of the day.
He was stuck behind a tree on 11. Another bogey. This was becoming a cliche, a Sergio highlight reel cliche. You had to feel sorry for the guy.
He parred 12 and then drove his ball into the azaleas on the par-5 13th but somehow still made par. When Rose missed his short birdie putt, Garcia had escaped without losing more ground.
That, it turned out, was the turning point for Garcia, for he then birdied the 14th to get one shot closer to Rose, then hit the shot of the tournament, an 8-iron approach from 190 yards on the par-five 15th that hit the flag stick. His eagle from 14 feet moved him into a tie when Rose birdied the hole.
“I was at peace with it,” Garcia said of his thoughts this week. “I had accepted what Augusta would give and take.”
After all the close calls, the runner-up finishes at the British Open and PGA Championship, the third-place finish at the U.S. Open, the fourth-place finish at the Masters, finally, Sergio was something he and we never thought he would be. He was a major winner.