An emotional Sergio Garcia overcame Justin Rose in a play-off at Augusta National to finally end of run of 73 Major disappointments to become a Major Champion in winning the Masters.
On what would have been the 60th birthday of Spanish countryman and three-time Green Jacket winner Seve Ballesteros, the Spaniard fired a closing 69 to finish at nine under and take Rose to extra holes.
The Englishman put his tee-shot into the pine straw on the way back up the 18th and had to pitch out sideways, allowing Garcia to put his approach to 12 feet and one putt was enough to seal victory.
The 37-year old was playing in his 74th Major and after previously achieving 22 top tens, he eventually got over the line to claim his second European Tour title of the season.
The win prompted emotional scenes on the 18th green with Garcia dropping to his knees before embracing his fiancée and heading to the Butler Cabin to be presented with the Green Jacket by fellow European Tour Member Danny Willett.
“It’s been such a long time coming and I thought I had it on 18,” he said. “I hit the putt exactly where I wanted.”
“I knew I was playing well. I felt the calmest I’ve ever felt on a Major Sunday and even after making a couple of bogeys I was still very positive, and hit some really good shots coming in and I’m so happy.”
“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. 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.”
And after winning the Low Amateur award at the 1999 Masters, the same year Jose Maria Olazabal won a second green jacket, Garcia was very much overcome to know now he will join Olazabal for many more years to come at the Former Champions Dinner.
“When I came here as an amateur in 1999 I felt like this golf course was going to give me one Major and I am not going to lie, that kind of thought changed a little bit over the years because I started feeling uncomfortable on the golf course,” he said.
“But then the last few years I have felt at peace with it and I accepted what Augusta gives and what Augusta takes and because of that I am able to stand here today.”
Rose had held a two-shot lead stood on the 12th tee but a clutch par on the 13th from Garcia swung the momentum his way and he went birdie-eagle on the 14th and 15th to set up a grandstand finale.
South African Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 champion, fired a closing 68 to finish at six under, a shot clear of Belgian Thomas Pieters and American Matt Kuchar – who made a hole-in-one on the 16th,
England’s Paul Casey was at four under, a shot ahead of World #2 Rory McIlroy who finished in the top ten for the fourth consecutive season.
Garcia made the perfect start as he put his approach on the first to five feet and holed an eight-footer that turned a long way right to left on the third to lead by two shots.
When Rose dropped a shot on the fifth after a tricky three putt, Garcia led by three but the Olympic champion came roaring back.
He put his tee-shot on the sixth to four feet, his approach to the seventh to four, and when he took advantage of the par five eighth with Garcia missing a short birdie putt, they were tied at eight under.
Bogeys on the tenth and 11th after ragged tee-shots dropped Garcia back and he had to take a drop on the 13th after another poor opener but he made a wonderful par and birdied the next from six feet.
He hit the pin on the 15th as he came close to an albatross and while Rose made a birdie, the pair were tied again.
Both men hit excellent tee-shots into the 16th but only Rose could take advantage, although he dropped a shot on the next to send them up the last level. Garcia had a five-footer to take the title but missed, a mistake he would not make on the return visit.