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On what was a rollercoaster ride of a final day at the 81st edition of the US Masters, World number 12, Sergio Garcia clinched his maiden Major title after defeating South African-born Englishman, Justin Rose in the first playoff hole.
Garcia became just the third Spanish player to claim a Green Jacket, after Seve Ballesteros (who would have been 60 years old yesterday) did it in 1980 and 1983, and José María Olazábal in 1994 and 1999. This was Garcia’s first Major win in 73 starts, and caps off a splendid weekend for one of the most colorful characters on the European Tour.
Going into the fourth day, the final pairing of Garcia and Rose (both sitting on -9) steadily broke away from the chasing pack, with a series of brilliant displays. Rose’s short game was magnificent, while Garcia’s driving off the tee made for some quality viewing. After a lengthy duel, the 14th-ranked Rose managed to claim a two-stroke lead with six holes to go, and seemed destined to add to the sole Major he won so superbly at the US Open of four years ago. Garcia did not roll-over however and, despite bogeying 10 and 11, managed to claw-back level with the 36-year-old Englishman, as they both finished on even-par, 9-under.
The 18th was the scene for the ‘sudden-death’ finish, as a distraught-looking Rose stepped up and managed to slice his tee-shot into the trees on the far left. Sergio found the fairway with his first stroke, and from then on it was the Spaniard who had the clear advantage. Although Rose managed to chip out of the rough and find the fairway, he bogeyed the hole, allowing his good friend (who had made the green with his second) two shots to claim the Green Jacket. As it turned out, Garcia would only need one and, the moment his 3-meter putt hit the bottom of the cup, he pumped the air in ecstasy. The crowd came to their feet, as the nearly-man of so many Major Championships finally knocked the monkey off his back, giving the ghost of Seve something to smile about on his birthday.
Speaking to the press after his historic win, an emotional Sergio remained humble in victory. “Justin wasn’t making it easy, he was playing extremely well. It was a great battle – he played awesomely.” When asked about what he put his performance down to, Garcia highlighted his temperament and belief in his own ability. “I knew what I was capable of doing, and I believed I could do it. I was much calmer than yesterday; much calmer than I have been in any Major Sunday, I think.”
Earlier, a superb late flurry of birdies by 2011 Masters champion, Charl Schwartzel earned him a third-place finish at 6-under par; while Matt Kuchar (who managed an ace in his final round), ended tied in fourth with Belgium’s Thomas Pieters at -5. Paul Casey (-4); Kevin Chappell and Rory McIlroy (both -3) and Adam Scott and Ryan Moore (both -2) closed out the top ten