Golf

Garcia finally lands first Major

Spaniard finally wins first Major title in his 74th start to end years of self doubt

Sergio Garcia ended nearly two decades of Major heartbreak when he beat Justin Rose in a play-off to win the US Masters yesterday morning (Singapore time) on what would have been the 60th birthday of his hero, the late Seve Ballesteros.

After four runner-up finishes and years of self doubt, Spain's Garcia finally delivered the long-awaited title that seemed destined to forever elude him.

His 12-foot birdie putt at the first extra hole dropped into the cup at the par-four 18th, triggering a massive cheer from an Augusta National gallery that began chanting his name after willing him across the line.

As his ball disappeared, Garcia crouched, clenched his fists and let out a mighty scream of pure joy releasing years of frustration, his 74 Major starts the most made by any professional golfer before a first win.

Said the 37-year-old Garcia: "I did think about, am I ever going to win one?

"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 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."

Deadlocked after nine holes, the two friends and rivals produced an enthralling back-nine showdown worthy of any Masters final round in what became a head-to-head battle after the other challengers fell away.

Garcia and Rose both carded 69 to finish tied on nine-under 279, three strokes clear of 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, sending the year's first Major to a play-off when both missed birdie putts at the 72nd hole.

All the omens had seemed in place for a Spanish victory with Garcia starting the day perched atop the leaderboard alongside Rose on Ballesteros' birthday.

Ballesteros, the Spanish talisman who died of brain cancer in 2011, inspired a generation of golfers in his country, winning the Green Jacket in 1980 and 1983.

Garcia becomes the third Spaniard to win the Masters, also joining Jose Maria Olazabal, who triumphed twice at Augusta, in 1994 and 1999.

"It is amazing. To do it on his (Ballesteros') 60th birthday and to join him and Jose Maria Olazabal, my two idols in golf, it is something amazing," said Garcia.

"I'm sure he helped a little bit with some of those shots or some of those putts."

Garcia has been plagued by self doubt in the Majors and once said he did not have what it takes to be a Major winner.

Yesterday, though, he demonstrated during an enthralling roller-coaster battle with Rose that he does possess the tools, demeanour and determination of a champion.

Rose certainly was convinced, the Olympic champion going toe-to-toe with Garcia in a back-nine battle that at times played out like a heavyweight fight.

"You can't feel bad for me," said Rose. "If there was anyone to lose to, it would be Sergio.

"He deserves it as much as anyone out here. He's had his fair share of heartbreak." - REUTERS

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