Spain’s Sergio Garcia seized control in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai as he finally achieved his destiny of winning a Major championship at the 74th time of asking by defeating Ryder Cup team mate England’s Justin Rose at the first hole of a sudden death play-off to win the Masters Tournament at Augusta National.
In what was another wonderful showing for the European Tour in the first Major of the season with the top three places, and five of the top ten spots, occupied by European Tour members, Garcia held his nerve during a captivating final round to emerge victorious after previously notching 22 top ten finishes in golf’s Grand Slam events without a win.
Fittingly, he received the famous Green Jacket from last year’s winner - another European Tour member - Danny Willett, on what would have been the 60th birthday of Spain’s most legendary golfing icon, Seve Ballesteros – himself a two-time winner at Augusta.
“I'm sure he helped a little bit with some of those shots or some of those putts,” said Garcia who bagged 1,838,116 points for his second European Tour title of the season, having also won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in February, to take his season total to 2,440,596.
The 37 year old, who admitted he felt calmer than he’d ever done before on the Sunday of a Major championship, revealed that he also took inspiration from another double Masters Tournament-winning Spaniard, José María Olazábal, as he continued the great tradition of Spanish winners in the tournament.
“It's amazing to do it on Seve's 60th birthday and to join him and (José María) Olazábal, my two idols in golf, it's something amazing,” said Garcia. “José sent me a text on Wednesday telling me how much he believed in me and what I needed to do, believe in myself, be calm and not let things get to me as I had in the past.”
“He said, 'I'm not sharing my locker at the moment and I hope that I get to do it with you'. So if you guys wouldn't mind putting me with José, it would be great.”
"He's a great man and we've had a great relationship for many, many years. To be able to join him and Seve as Masters champions from Spain, it's unbelievable."
Rose was two shots in front as the pair teed it up on 14th but a birdie from Garcia, who was re-energized by a clutch par putt on the previous hole having gone bogey-bogey on ten and 11, saw the momentum start to swing in his favour.
Garcia then made eagle on 15, just as Olazabal had done on the same hole 23 years earlier as he closed out his first Masters victory in 1994, to bring the scores level after Rose birdied the same hole.
The Englishman got his nose back in front with a birdie on 16 but gave a shot back on the 17th meaning the destiny of the Green Jacket was still very much in the balance heading down the last.
Garcia had a five-foot birdie putt to seal the victory but the ball slid past agonisingly close to the cup. With both players signing for 69 and nine under par totals of 279 it was back to the 18t tee for a play-off. This time Rose found the rough with his tee shot and was forced to pitch sideways out of the pine straw, back onto the fairway. Garcia played a beautiful approach to 12 feet and then dispatched his birdie putt before dropping to his knees as the enormity of his achievement sunk in.
Rose, who claimed 1,102,870 points for his runner-up spot to move to fourth place in the Race to Dubai with 1,175,686 for the season, was magnanimous in defeat, saying:
"Sergio is obviously the best player not to have won a Major, no longer. That's great any time one of those types of players, there's a handful of them, and any time one of those guys gets that huge monkey off their back, I think it makes it a poignant Major championship."
Charl Schwartzel, winner of the 2011 Masters Tournament, closed with 69 to take third place at six under par. The South African claimed 694,399 points to move to fifth place with a season total of 881,520.
Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, making his debut in the tournament, followed up on his impressive inaugural Ryder Cup outing last September, with another fine performance on one of golf’s biggest stages to take a share of fourth place with the USA’s Matt Kuchar. The 25 year old claimed 449,317 Race to Dubai points to take his season tally to 836,780.
World Number Two Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, finished in the top ten for the fourth consecutive season, closing with 69 for a share of seventh place with America’s Kevin Chappell. The Northern Irishman claimed 329,329 points to move to eighth place with 716,615 points for the season.
All five of the European Tour’s top Masters Tournament performers have already secured their spots in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, taking place at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai from November 16 to 19.