Spain’s Sergio Garcia has followed up his Omega Dubai Desert Classic victory with his first Major title, as he claimed Augusta’s famed Green Jacket in a thrilling play-off at the Masters, writes Michael Stoneman
Winning the Omega Dubai Desert Classic title is proving to be something of a good luck charm at the Masters, with the reigning DDC champion going on to claim the year’s first Major for the second successive season.
Just like Danny Willett in 2016, Sergio Gargia was able to transfer his superb play from the Emirates Golf Club to the famed fairways of Augusta National, as he followed up his imperious wire-to-wire victory in Dubai with a thrilling play-off victory over Justin Rose to win a long-awaited first Major title.
The Spaniard had been tipped as a future Major champion since bursting onto the golfing scene as runner-up to Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship, but it took until his 74th Major Championship appearance to finally claim one of golf’s marquee titles – and even then it was anything but straightforward.
Entering the day tied for the lead with Rose at six-under par, Garcia looked to be in control of the tournament following birdies on two of the opening three holes, but the final round seemed to encapsulate the 37-year-old’s entire career as his fortunes ebbed and flowed from triumph to disaster, with genius shot making mixed with nervy putting and downright misfortune.
Much has been made in the past about Garcia’s mental fortitude in the biggest moments, and when he bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes you could be forgiven for thinking that the 2017 Masters would slip from the Spaniard’s grasp like so many previous Majors in a career that has included four second-placed finishes on the sport’s grandest stages.
With his tee shot on the par-five 13th ending in an unplayable lie in the trees, Garcia’s challenge looked well and truly finished. But, buoyed by his recent win in Dubai and boasting a much improved attitude to adversity, the Ryder Cup star was able to scramble a miraculous par after taking a one-shot penalty.
A remarkable eagle on the par-five 15th brought Garcia level with Rose at nine-under and set up a grandstand finish, with both players missing birdie chances at the 18th to send proceedings to a play-off. When the Spaniard’s second birdie putt of the day on the 18th finally found the cup to clinch the Green Jacket, the joy – and relief – were clear for all to see.
"It has been such a long time coming," said Garcia, who rises to number seven in the world rankings. "I knew I was playing well. I felt the calmest I ever felt in a Major."
No doubt part of that calmness came from his recent victory in Dubai, with Garcia now joining a host of other DDC champions as a Masters winner, including Willett, Seve Ballesteros, José María Olazábal, Fred Couples, Mark O’Meara and Tiger Woods.
The 2018 edition of the DDC may still be 10 months away, but those golfers hoping to be fitted for a Green Jacket next April are probably already marking next year’s tournament in their schedules, as they aim to follow the template for Masters glory set by Willett and Garcia.