Sergio Garcia proves golf doesn’t need Tiger Woods.
The Masters usually delivers high drama on the back nine of the final round, and Sunday was no exception. Garcia beat Justin Rose in a playoff after both golfers missed very makeable birdie putts on the 72nd hole. It looked like the same old Sergio.
This was Garcia’s 74th major championship in his nearly 20-year pro career, and he had not won the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open or PGA. The closest he came was lipping out a winning putt on the final hole of the British, then losing in the playoff. This time, he capitalized on Rose’s mistake, had two putts to win and dropped in the birdie for added theatrics.
I first saw Garcia, then a teenager, at the Ryder Cup outside of Boston in September of 1999, just after he had turned pro as the latest protégé of fellow Spaniard Seve Ballesteros. Sergio traveled with his mother and a tutor and the girls in the rowdy Ryder Cup gallery squealed at him. He appeared ready to challenge Tiger Woods as the next young gun of the game. It never happened.
While Garcia was always fun to watch over the next 18 years, the most he had to show for it was winning the Players Tournament and some strong starts in the majors that faded on the weekend as critics called him a choker. His game was now better than ever and his balky putter made more than he missed inside 10 feet.
On what would have been the late Ballesteros’ 60th birthday, Garcia rallied from what had become his typical collapse and recovered from losing a three-stroke lead to Englishman Rose. His spectacular eagle on No. 15 pulled them even and they were still tied going up 18, as the fantastic finish unfolded.
There may be several reasons why Garcia picked this day and this major to break through. He cited his new-found calmness on the course attributed it to his fiancée, Texas beauty Angela Akins. His grit and determination finally paid off, and another marvelous Masters proved that the game of golf was moving on just fine without Woods, who was better younger than Sergio but did not last as long.