SERGIO GARCIA WINS 81st MASTERS TOURNAMENT
Welcome to the March Pro Golf Wrap-Up – everything you need to know in the world of golf expertly curated by your friends at Global Golf Management.
Sergio Garcia decided several years ago that he didn’t have what it took to win a major championship. That was in 2012. Five year. A lot can change. And it did change. On April 9 at Augusta National Golf Club, a wiser and more mature Garcia proved himself wrong when he won the 81st Masters Tournament in a sudden death playoff over good friend Justin Rose.
Garcia sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole, the 18th, and let out a primal scream in finally breaking through in his 74th start in a major. He and Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion and reigning Olympic golf champion, each had fired a final-round 69 in a head-to-head duel to finish 72 holes at 9-under 279.
“I knew what I was capable of doing, and I believed that I could do it,” said Garcia, who hadn’t always felt that way or blamed others for his shortcomings.
Garcia became the third Spaniard to win the green jacket, finally capturing that elusive major on what would have been the 60th birthday of the late Seve Ballesteros. The other Spaniard, Jose Maria Olazabal, who won the Masters in 1994 and 1999, played a small role, sending Garcia a text on the eve of the Masters extolling him to believe and, as Garcia explained, “to not let things get to me like I’ve done in the past.”
They didn’t. And he won. Amazing how that worked out.
Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel birdied the 18th for a 68 to finish third. Matt Kuchar made a hole-in-one on the 16th that propelled him into a tie for fourth with Masters rookie Thomas Pieters of Belgium. Jordan Spieth, the 2015 winner, played in the penultimate group with Rickie Fowler, but the Americans were never a factor, shooting 75 and 76, respectively, to tie for 11th.
It all came down to the two Europeans. They both played splendidly.
“Justin wasn’t making it easy. He was playing extremely well” said Garcia, playing in his 70th major as a professional. “But I knew what I was capable of doing, and I believed that I could do it.”
In 2012, he told reporters that he believed he didn’t have what it took to win a major title, and with 22 previous top-10 finishes in majors without a win, that was looking true. Then Sunday April 9 changed everything, or, rather, Garcia changed things, rallying from the start of a rocky back nine with a miracle par save on the par-5 13th after driving into a bush left of Rae’s Creek and then hitting an 8-iron from 189 yards at the par-5 15th that rattled the flagstick and settled 15 feet away. He made the eagle to ignite his finishing kick to his 10th PGA Tour title and 28th worldwide victory, including the Dubai Desert Classic in February – the same event Danny Willett won last year before getting his green jacket.
The victory elevated Garcia back into the world top 10 at No. 7. Rose also returned to the top 10 at No. 8, right behind his friend. “If there’s anyone to lose to, it’s Sergio. He deserves it,” Rose, 36, said. “He’s had his fair share of heartbreak.”
His most disappointing – after a great run at Tiger Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah – were the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage, where Woods dominated, and disappointing setbacks to Padraig Harrington at the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie and the 2008 PGA at Oakland Hills.
This time there would be no disappointment, only cheers of “Seer-gio!” reverberating through the tall pines. There would Sergio Garcia standing on the veranda at Augusta National wearing his own green jacket and the biggest smile in the world.
“It’s been an amazing week,” Garcia said, “and I’m going to enjoy it for the rest of my life.”
While Garcia was winning the Masters, So Yeon Ryu of South Korea was winning the first LPGA major of the year, the ANA Inspiration, also in a playoff.
She defeated American Lexi Thompson with a birdie on the first playoff hole, but the story of the final day was the Thompson incurred a four-shot penalty in the middle of the round after officials learned that she had marked her ball incorrectly the previous day on the 17th green.
Ryu won her second major and fourth LPGA title overall with a closing 4-under 68 and 14-under 274 total. She previously had won the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open.
“Yeah, I just, you know, cannot believe this situation. During play, I didn’t even check the leaderboard, but I thought Lexi played really, really well,” Ryu said after her round. “I thought, I’m well behind, so all I wanted to do was just play my game and enjoy my game. I was paired with my best friend, Inbee Park today, so I just really wanted to have a really good, strong finish.”
Ryu’s win came April 2. LPGA winners in March were Inbee Park at the HSBC Women’s Championship in Singapore, Anna Nordqvist at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and Mirim Lee in the Kia Classic.
Park won with a course-record 64 in the final round for her 18th LPGA title.
Nordqvist won her seventh LPGA title thanks to a closing 68 at Wildfire Golf Club in Phoenix.
As for Lee, she defeated Lee by six strokes with a commanding performance that included a final round 65 to finish with a record-tying 20-under-par total at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif.
Winners on the PGA Tour in March were led by world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who took both WGC titles, the WGC-Mexico Championship and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. You can read about both impressive victories here:
Meanwhile, D.A. Points won a shootout to capture the Puerto Rico Open, while Adam Hadwin won the Valspar Championship and Marc Leishman won an emotional edition of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, the first played with the legendary Palmer after his passing last September. Palmer started hosting the event at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in 1979.
Points emerged from a crowded leaderboard by firing a final-round 6-under 66 for a two-shot victory. The 40-year-old’s triumph at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club was his third overall and first in nearly four years (2013 Shell Houston Open).
Stay tuned here and on Global Golf Management Twitter for next month’s Pro Golf Wrap-Up.