AUGUSTA, Ga.—Sergio Garcia tugged the lapel of his green jacket with both hands, proud of his prize and how he earned it.
His hopes were fading yesterday in the Masters—two shots behind with six holes to play—when his tee shot bounced off a tree and into an azalea bush, the kind of bad luck he had come to expect in the majors.
Instead of pouting, though, he figured out how to make par.
Five feet away from winning, his birdie putt peeled off to the right. Usually resigned to fail, Garcia proved to be more resilient than ever.
He was a new man with a new title: Masters champion.
“It's been an amazing week," Garcia said. "And I'm going to enjoy it for the rest of my life.”
After nearly two decades of heartache in the tournaments that define careers, Garcia finally showed the mettle to win a major.
He overcame a two-shot deficit against Justin Rose and won on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.
No one ever played more majors as a pro (70) before winning one for the first time.
Garcia got rid of the demons and the doubts with two big moments on the par-fives—one a par, the other an eagle—in closing with a three-under 69.
It was never easy until the end, when Rose sent his drive into the trees on the 18th hole in the playoff, punched out, and failed to save par from 15 feet.
That gave the 37-year-old Spaniard two putts from 12 feet for the victory, and his putt swirled into the cup for a birdie.
He crouched in disbelief, both fists clenched and shaking, and he shouted above the loudest roar of the day.
Rose, who also closed with a 69, graciously patted Garcia's cheek before they embraced.
Rose then tapped Garcia on the heart, which turned out to be a lot bigger than anyone realized.
“Ser-gee-oh! Ser-gee-oh!” the delirious gallery chanted to Garcia. He turned with his arms to his side, blew a kiss to the crowd, and then crouched again and slammed his fist into the turf of the green.
All that Spanish passion was on display, raw as ever, this time sheer joy.
“Justin wasn't making it easy. He was playing extremely well,” Garcia noted.
“But I knew what I was capable of doing, and I believe that I could do it.”
Garcia became the third Spaniard in a green jacket, winning on what would have been the 60th birthday of the late Seve Ballesteros.
And it was Jose Maria Olazabal, who won the Masters in 1994 and 1999, who sent him a text on the eve of the Masters telling Garcia to believe and “to not let things get to me like I've done in the past.”
He didn't get down after missing a six-foot putt on the 16th hole to fall out of the lead, or missing a five-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have won in regulation.
His chin was up. He battled to the end.
“If there's anyone to lose to, it's Sergio. He deserves it," Rose said. "He's had his fair share of heartbreak.”
Not since 1998 have the last two players on the course gone to the 18th tied for the lead—and both had their chances to win.
Rose's approach hit off the side of the bunker and kicked onto the green, stopping seven feet away.
Garcia answered with a wedge that covered the flag and settled five feet away.
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 gave him hope but not for very long.
He wound up tied for fourth with Thomas Pieters, who ran off four birdies on the back nine.
Jordan Spieth, starting the final round only two shots behind, put another tee shot into the water on No. 12 long after it mattered.
He had to birdie three of his last four holes for a 75.
Also an afterthought was Rickie Fowler, who started one shot behind but shot 76 yesterday.