Spain’s Sergio Garcia captured his first major golf title on Sunday after 73 failed attempts, making a birdie on the first playoff hole to defeat Justin Rose and win the 81st Masters.
Garcia took his emotional, long-sought triumph over England’s Rose, the 2016 Rio Olympic champion and 2013 US Open winner, after they finished deadlocked on nine-under par 279 for 72 holes at Augusta National.
The 37-year-old Spaniard took the greatest triumph of his career, and a $1.98 million top prize from an $11 million payout, on what would have been the 60th birthday of his idol, two-time Masters champion and three-time British Open winner Seve Ballesteros, who died of brain cancer in 2011 at age 54.
“It’s amazing,” Garcia said. “To do it on his 60th birthday, it’s something amazing.”
Last-group playing partners and friends Garcia and Rose were level for the lead at the start of what become a tension-packed thrill ride of a final round.
Garcia led by three strokes after five holes, fell two behind after 11, then roared back to force the playoff and sank a 15-foot birdie putt to claim victory.
“Even after making a couple of bogeys I was very positive. I still believed,” Garcia said. “There were a lot of holes I could get to and I stayed positive.”
Rose’s playoff tee shot soared deep into trees right of the fairway but bounced out onto pine straw while Garcia found the fairway.
Rose could only punch out onto the fairway and scrambled to make a bogey while Garcia put his approach 15 feet from the hole and, needing only two putts to win, rolled in a birdie around the edge of the cup.
On the 72nd regulation hole, Rose missed an eight-foot birdie putt, leaving Garcia a five-footer to win, but he pushed it wide right.
Not since Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal in 1994 had a Masters champion eagled on the back nine in the final round.
Rose birdied to match Garcia, then birdied the par-3 16th only to bogey and remain deadlocked to set up the closing drama.
South African Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters winner, was third on 282 with American Matt Kuchar and Belgian Thomas Pieters sharing fourth on 283.