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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, March 3, 2024

Teeing Off: Make it a Spanish trio

Wow. What a finish. Sergio Garcia has finally won his first major in his 74th appearance. The Spaniard has had so many near misses over the course of his nearly-20-year career in the major championships, going all the way back to the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah, where a 19-year-old Sergio was just edged out by Tiger Woods.

Over the course of his career, well until about 7:40 p.m. EST on Sunday, Sergio has been known (pretty universally) as the greatest player to have never won a major. And I am sure everyone will congratulate him on getting off of that list.

The Masters this year was an absolute treat to all who watched. The first 36 holes were some of the hardest in recent history. The scoring average was well over par for both days, as the wind howled with gusts as strong as 40 mph. But Saturday saw calm weather and low scores, as the players jockeyed for position. Garcia and Rose started Sunday, tied at the top at six under par, with Rickie Fowler one back and Jordan Spieth two back playing together in the penultimate group.

The two young Americans quickly faded on the front nine, and the tournament became a two horse race between Englishman Justin Rose and Garcia. Importantly, these two Europeans have not only been teammates in previous Ryder Cups, but they have played together in four-ball and four-some matches in the Ryder Cup, forming a wonderful friendship.

Garcia got off to a quick start, with birdies on the first and third, quickly taking a two-shot lead. Rose, however, seized all the momentum after three straight birdies on holes 6, 7 and 8.

Then, on the 13th hole with a two-shot lead, Rose looked for the knock-out punch. Garcia had driven his ball on the par five way left, over a creek, in the woods, into a bush ... and Rose hit his nicely down the middle into the fairway. Garcia was forced to take a penalty drop and play his third from the woods, but miraculously Garcia made par, channeling the late great Seve Ballesteros (his mentor), a two-time Masters Champion from Spain famous for making incredible up and downs for par. Ironically -- or not -- Seve’s 60th birthday would have been on Sunday. And as Rose three putted for par, Sergio regained all the momentum.

After Garcia birdied 14 and made an incredible eagle at 15, the two were tied at 9 under par with three to play (well clear of the rest of the field). Both men hit great irons on 16, but only Rose birdied. However, Rose gave it back after an errant drive on 17. The two were tied on the final hole. Both men made par, each just missing their birdie putts and thus replayed the 18th in a sudden death playoff.Rose was errant off the tee again, but it wouldn’t matter, as Garcia drained an 18-footer for birdie and for the win at the 2017 Masters Championship.

Garcia’s pure jubilation with victory surely moved many. Let there be no mistake: Golf, like life, doesn’t owe you anything. However, we can all see when something is deserved. Well played, Sergio!