The Masters once again showed that it is an event unlike any other. Sergio Garcia captured his first major title in a sudden death playoff victory over Rio gold medalist Justin Rose. On what would have been the 60th birthday of Garcia’s childhood legend Seve Ballesteros, Garcia captured his first major victory in 74 attempts and became the third Spaniard, joining Ballesteros, to win the Masters.
In the first year without the “King” Arnold Palmer being in attendance, this year’s Masters was different than ever before. In 2004, Palmer played his 50th and final time at Augusta National; since then, he has been an ambassador for the club and part of the trio with Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus that kicked off each tournament Thursday morning. Both Rose and Garcia had a chance to match Palmer’s feat of birding the 72nd hole to win the Masters like Palmer did in 1960, but it was not meant to be.
This year, there was an obvious hole without his presence, coupled with the absence of world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who had to withdraw minutes before his tee time due to a back injury. With Tiger Woods out and other big names playing themselves out of contention, the Masters came down to the final grouping to duel it out for the infamous green jacket.
Americans Jordan Spieth and Ricky Fowler yet were in the second to last group and were thought to be contenders coming into the final day. Yet both struggled throughout, finishing one under par for the tournament. Bronze medalist in Rio, Matt Kuchar, and fourth place finisher Thomas Pieters both had solid final days going five under, but they could not challenge the final pairing, finishing tied for fourth.
Kuchar had the lone hole in one, connecting on the par three 16 while Pieters was able to hit four birdies in a row on the back nine to propel him up the leaderboard. 2011 Masters Champion, Charl Schwartzel, finished in third place at six under, as he was able to birdie the 72nd hole to break away from Kuchar and Pieters.
Both Garcia and Rose were able to distance themselves from the pack early, with Garcia dropping a couple birdies early to get to eight under after the fifth hole. Things changed drastically within the next hour. Rose within 50 minutes tied it at eight under and minutes later found himself up two after birding holes six, seven and eight. Garcia started to fall apart, bogeying hole No. 10 and No. 11, but Rose was unable to put him away and missed birdie chances on holes 11, 12 and 13.
Hole 13 was the momentum shift for Garcia. He was able to par hole 13 and avoid catastrophe and a three hole deficit. Garcia birdied hole 14 to get within one, and eagled hole 15 to take the temporary lead. Rose was able to keep his composure and birdie hole 15, creating a great deal of excitement for the final three holes.
In the final par three, both golfers had a chance at a birdie, Garcia missed an easy sitter while Rose had his birdie fall in, going up one stroke with two holes to play. On the 440 par four hole 17, Rose struggled finding the bunker and just missing on his par attempt, setting up a tie going into the final hole.
Both players had great drives and approach shots going into the green but both players failed to hit on birdie attempts to win the title, setting up a sudden death playoff hole, which would take place on no. 18. On the playoff hole, Rose hit into trouble causing him to chip out and bogey the hole. Garcia looked confident in the playoffs and knocked in a 10 foot birdie to win his first ever major tournament.
With the victory, he was able to get over the hump of his four runner-up major performances, including his playoff loss in the 2007 Open Championship when he missed a birdie chance to win on the 72nd hole. Garcia followed the win of Danny Willet from last year, as the Masters has been won by back-to-back Europeans for the first time since the 1993 and 1994 tournament.
Once again the Masters proved to be an event unlike any other even without the presence of the great Arnold Palmer. There was so much drama that 73 holes had to be played, and for the first time ever, Garcia won a major championship, honoring his hero and forever etching his name on the greatest trophy golf has to offer.
Matt Kren is a staff writer for The Daily Campus, covering women’s basketball. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.