It was thrilling, one of the most dramatic final few holes in Masters history.
When I thought of that amazing statistic — Sergio Garcia’s pursuit of a major golf championship for close to 20 years without winning in 73 attempts — I cheered him on from in front of my TV set as if I were among the thousands present at Augusta, Georgia.
I wasn’t the only one pulling for the likeable Spaniard. He had come so close to winning so often over the years only to collapse one way or another on a late sunny Sunday afternoon. For Sergio, flowers encircling greens always seemed to suddenly wilt, billowing white clouds overhead turn gray.
The elusive Masters? Could he ever win the oldest and most prestigious among the four majors held annually? Could he ever win any — the British, PGA, U.S. Open?
Tied with Justin Rose, a formidable opponent, going into the final 18 holes, Sergio had fallen 2 shots behind with six remaining. Then, it happened. His errant tee shot struck a tree, the ball landing in a bush, resulting in a 1-stroke penalty on the par-5 hole.
The beginning of another heartbreak? I, and no doubt millions of others, had seen it happen to Garcia so often. Surely he would drop another stroke to trail Rose by at least 3 shots.
But not this time. A spectacular iron shot and difficult putt by Garcia saved par while Rose’s “sure” birdie missed the cup.
It was what Sergio needed. He went on to draw even going into the last hole. Even then, the drama continued when both golfers missed putts that would have ended the match, setting up the playoff.
Surprisingly, on the first extra hole, it was Rose who folded, when Justin drove into the rough, then topped his second shot. The two balls ended up side by side on the fairway, Sergio lying one, Rose two.
The rest was anticlimactic. Sergio needed only two relatively short putts to finally enter the record books.
Truly, a masterful performance that got the monkey off his back … and erased Sergio’s name from that dreaded list of golf’s best players who haven’t won a major.
SUN CITY WEST