Sergio Garcia admitted his long wait for a major title made his sensational Masters victory even sweeter after beating Justin Rose in a play-off.
On what would have been the 60th birthday of two-time champion Seve Ballesteros, Garcia became the third Spanish winner at Augusta National with a birdie on the first extra hole following a sensational duel with his Ryder Cup team-mate.
The pair had finished tied on nine under par after closing rounds of 69, with Rose overturning an early three-stroke deficit to lead by a shot after 16 holes, only to bogey the 17th and then fail to convert a birdie attempt from seven feet on the last.
That left Garcia with a chance to win his first major title at the 74th attempt, but his putt from five feet slid past the hole and meant the first play-off at Augusta since Adam Scott beat Angel Cabrera in 2013.
The players returned to the 18th and Rose was unable to save par after pushing his drive into the trees and hitting a poor recovery, but Garcia finished an unforgettable day in style by holing from 12 feet for birdie.
“It’s been a long wait but it’s that much sweeter because of that wait,” Garcia said after being presented with his green jacket by 2016 champion Danny Willett. “I get to call myself Masters champion and that’s amazing.
“It’s amazing to do it on Seve’s 60th birthday and to join him and (Jose Maria) Olazabal, my two idols in golf. Jose sent me a text on Wednesday telling me how much he believed in me and what I needed to do, believe in myself, be calm and not let things get to me as I had in the past.”
Garcia was playing his 71st consecutive major championship, a streak stretching back to the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie.
A month later he finished second in the US PGA Championship at the age of 19, but had since recorded a further 21 top-10 finishes without claiming a maiden major title.
And after finishing 12th at Augusta in 2012, Garcia told Spanish reporters: ‘’I’m not good enough. In 13 years I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place.”
He has now proved himself wrong.
“Because where my head was at some times, I did think about ‘Am I ever going to win one?’” Garcia said on Sunday.
“I’ve had so many good chances and either I lost them or someone has done something extraordinary to beat me. So it did cross my mind.
“But lately I’ve been getting some good help and I’ve been thinking a little bit different, a little bit more positive. And kind of accepting, too, that if it for whatever reason didn’t happen, my life is still going to go on. It’s not going to be a disaster.”
Rose, who was looking to become the first European player to win the Masters and US Open, was typically gracious in defeat, adding: “It was a wonderful battle and if there is anyone you want to lose to it’s Sergio.
“He deserves it, he’s had his fair share of heartache.
‘’I felt I had it under control round the turn, he obviously rallied and had a great comeback with the save on 13, the birdie on 14 and eagle on 15. Other than that I had it won.”