WHAT A WHIRLDWIND! The dust has settled and another Masters Tournament has gone down as one for the ages. Every year, this is billed as the top tournament in golf. Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia is the setting. The prize, a highly coveted green jacket. Every major player past and present shows up for this event. The beauty of the course is matched only by its difficulty. Known for its sky high bunkers, enormous ridges throughout fairways and greens, strategically placed water, and breathtaking vistas; Augusta National is incomparable to any golf course in the world. The crowds come out in droves and there is a certain mystique to this tournament, a rarified air to be standing on this course. No cell phones allowed, sodas and sandwiches that still cost one dollar. Augusta National is hallowed ground for any person who fancies them self a fan of the sport. Filled with rich history and some of the greatest moments golf has ever known, this tournament stands above the rest.
From Thursday morning, we knew we were in for a great weekend of golf. Always a drama filled event, we got a bit of everything this year. Weather early in the week forced the course to close and par three tournament to be cancelled. An injury forced the heavy favorite, Dustin Johnson, to withdrawal at the first tee. A relative unknown to the casual golf fan, Charley Hoffman, cards an unbelievable 65 (7 under) to lead after the first day. Then on day two, you had the heavy hitters returning to form and scoring low to get into contention. Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson all got within four strokes of the leader setting up what would be an outstanding weekend.
Saturday was an unbelievable day of golf as Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia began to separate themselves from the pack. The day finished with 15 players under par and at least 7 who seemed to have a legitimate chance of winning the green jacket (see round 3 leaderboard, left). This was all leading up to, in my opinion, the best day of golf each year. The Sunday of the first week in April, the day when all of my friends and I gather to see who can join the legendary group of Masters champions. Names like Jack Nicklaus (6 time winner), Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods (4 times), Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, the list goes on and on.
Sunday is always an exciting day, and this year was no different. Many players had great days of golf, others couldn’t perform and slid down the leaderboard. The day started with multiple guys appearing to be in contention and it was anyone’s to win. Just look at this graphic below! However, it became clear that it would be between the two guys in the final pairing of the day Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia.
Everybody else was playing for third place as these two played the best golf we have seen all year. That’s not a knock against the field either, because some guys had great days that just weren’t enough to compete. We saw Matt Kuchar hit a hole in one on 16 and finish at 5 under, only good enough for T-4. Check out that incredible golf shot at ESPN. Charl Schwartzel, a former Masters champ (2011), finished strong at 4 under on the day and capped it off with a 23 foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to give him sole possession of third place. The fearsome pairing of young guns, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, who seemed to have a chance coming into the final day didn’t fair so well. They posted scores of 75 and 76 respectively leaving them T-11 as the tournament came to a close.
The story of the Masters 2017 was the battle between Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia. Neither had won the Masters before. Rose came into the tournament as the 9th ranked golfer in the world and won a major tournament, the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in 2013. Sergio, ranked at number 12 in the world, had never won a major championship. This was his 73rd major tournament, and even he believed he couldn’t do it. After Masters just 5 years ago he was quoted as saying, “I’m not good enough… I don’t have the thing I need to have. In 13 years I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second of third place.” More from that interview can be found HERE. Even so, we were dealing with some heavy hitters in the final group and it basically came down to a stroke play match between them.
As the day went on, we thought we were seeing what usually happened to Sergio Garcia coming down the stretch in contention for a major championship, utter collapse. He went from outright leader to down two strokes to Rose within just a couple holes. He hit into the bushes at the 10th. Yanked a tee shot behind a tree on 11, and hooked another into bushes on the 13th hole. It seemed like Justin Rose would run away with it and I was ready to start measuring for his green jacket with 5 holes to play. Then the incredible happened. Where we were accustomed to a Sergio choke job, he started playing some great golf. An EAGLE at 15 put him just one back from Rose with 3 to play. Then to confirm we were watching the best golf of the year, both players put their tee shots within eight feet of the pin on the par 3 16th hole and nailed birdie puts. Heading into the 17th hole Justin Rose sat at 10 under with Garcia just one stroke behind him. It got even more exciting when Sergio parred 17 and Rose missed a 10 footer giving him a bogey, tying the two leading into the last hole.
Crowds gathered at the 18th hole as it came down to sudden death between these two incredible golfers, and the show didn’t stop there. Both players hit excellent tee shots, and Justin Rose got a huge bounce on his 2nd to put him in solid birdie position. However, Sergio was poised for some late heroics as he hit an excellent chip leaving him just 7 feet away from the pin. Rose missed his birdie putt left and it was all up to Garcia to finish it and win his green jacket. That wasn’t how it would end, as the golf gods looked down on us, Sergio missed his putt and blessed us with sudden death playoff golf. Per the rules the two players, tied at -9, drove back to the tee box at 18 to play for the Masters Championship. It was all but over when Justin Rose hooked his drive into the trees in the right. Sergio hit an excellent tee shot and another great wedge before sinking his putt for birdie and the coveted green jacket. After 73 attempts, including 19 at the Masters, Sergio Garcia had finally won a major championship and solidified his legacy in golf lore. Watch his incredible celebration, maybe that sheds a little light on what it means to win the Masters. Especially to one, Sergio Garcia.