The Taylormade golf ball with a little “10” on it moves with the grains of the green and starts to break to the left. Jim Nantz, the CBS commentator quietly whispers,“ And after so many years…” The ball continues to break to the left and finally, with the screams and sounds of excitement rising in the background, it sneaks in the hole on the very left side for Sergio’s birdie and win on the 73rd hole of the Masters. “Once and for all for Sergio!” shouts Jim Nantz into the microphone. Sergio has just won the Masters, and his first major tournament in 74 tries. He clenches his fists, screams out loud, and squats into a little ball with his putter in hand while the crowd chants his name around him. No longer is Sergio Garcia “the best player not to have won a major”.
This was definitely a Masters tournament that did not lack excitement. The 81st Masters ended with a playoff hole, with Sergio Garcia ousting Justin Rose for the Green Jacket. On the 72nd hole, or the 18th hole in the final round, Sergio missed a 5-foot putt for the win under the pressure, forcing the playoff hole. Rose mishit his drive, sending it into the woods and had to punch out, while Sergio had a great drive and a second shot, which left him with a 14-foot putt for the birdie and the win.
Earlier in the week, the par-3 contest was canceled due to heavy rains. This and the absence of legend Arnold Palmer put a damper on the beginning of the tournament, but that did not stop the competition.
Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player hit teary eyed ceremonial first shots, looking at the gloomy skies to say a word in memory of “the King”. Dustin Johnson, world number 1, quickly dropped out citing back injuries. Charlie Hoffman was not held back by the overcast skies and teary eyes and came out strong with a 65-seven under parfour strokes lower than second place William McGirt. Lee Westwood was in 3rd at the end of the first day, and many others including Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, and Sergio Garcia were all on his tail.
Day two at the Masters showed hope for some who were not as successful on day one. Rickie Fowler, another great golfer who has still yet to win a major championship, was the star of day two, climbing the ranks to challenge Charlie Hoffman, with a five under 67 on the day. Phil struggled on the back nine, bogeying four out of his last six holes. Hoffman, Gargia, Pieters, and Fowler all finished tied for the lead at four under going into Saturday.
Day three saw a lot of moving on the leaderboard, as expected. The only player not to move was the eventual winner, Sergio. Jordan Spieth, the young star who royally screwed up in the 2016 Masters, came back from behind to be tied with Charlie Hoffman for 4th, one shot behind Rickie Fowler for at the end of the third round. Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia were tied for first, with the Englishman making big gains on Saturday.
The final day at Augusta National Golf Club was a perfect end to a stellar tournament. Rickie Fowler was one shot back, the closest he had ever been to the 54- hole lead in a major. He was hoping this would be the day his dry spell would end. For Spieth, this was the first time in 4 appearances at the Masters that he would not be playing in the final pairing. Just before 3:30 in the afternoon that Sunday, Garcia had taken a fivestroke lead over his playing partner, Justin Rose, and the outright lead at 8 under, with Fowler only 2 strokes behind. Justin Rose finally revived himself with a couple of birdies, and with the help of a bogey from Garcia, Rose took the outright lead. In the midst of all of the excitement at the top of the leaderboard, Matt Kuchar gets a hole-in-one on the par-3 16th and gives his ball to a little boy standing in the crowd, illuminating his face with pure joy. Both Spieth and Rickie melted down on the back nine, so it was left to just Garcia, Rose, Pieters, and now Kuchar for a potential playoff. Garcia and Rose, playing together in the final group, both fended off Pieters and Kuchar, but could not fight off each other.
After they both missed birdie putts for the win on the 18th, they forced a playoff, and the rest is history. After the round was finished and the Green Jacket awarded to a well deserving Sergio Garcia, Rose said, “If there’s anyone to lose to, it’s Sergio. He deserves it. He’s had his fair share of heartbreak.”
By Jared Frifeld