By Will Johnson
HOUSTON COUNTY – The ball rolled true and when it found the bottom of the cup, Sergio Garcia was no longer the best player on the PGA to have never won a major tournament. Like the proverbial monkey on his back, he shed that title for someone else to carry and donned a green jacket as the 2017 Master’s Champion.
Garcia shot a final round 3-under par 69 and then drained a 12 foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to win his first major championship on Sunday.
Oh, but it almost didn’t happen. On the 72nd hole, Garcia pushed a seven foot birdie putt just left of the hole to tie with Justin Rose at the end of regulation.
You could almost hear the announcers and crowd – in a hushed golf tone – say, “Typical Sergio.” He had played in 74 previous major tournaments without a victory. He had come close a few times and had 22 top 10 finishes in the majors without a win. Still, he persevered.
After opening up a three shot final round lead, Garcia hit back-to-back bogeys and then found his tee shot in the woods on 13. Still, he persevered.
It was a lesson every young athlete can take to heart. Sometimes success comes early and you win a championship in football, basketball, baseball, softball, golf or whatever. Sometimes though, you have to wait.
Garcia burst on to the scene in 1999 as he scissor kicked his way out of the rough in a dual with Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship. Woods was at his peak and Garcia was a fresh faced kid of 19. He was hailed as the next big thing and was thought to be the closest thing to a rival Tiger might have.
Flash forward 18 years and Tiger has more major victories (14) than Sergio has tour victories (11). The rivalry never materialized and Sergio took a beating in the press.
He was emotional on the course and could be inconsistent at times, but still he persevered. Sergio was always a good player but he could never quite seem to put it together when it mattered most.
He had become Phil Mickelson before Phil went on to win a few green jackets, a claret jug and a Wannamaker Trophy.
Sergio never quit even though there were times he probably wanted to. In 2007, he narrowly missed a par putt on 18 to win the British Open and then in a playoff, his tee shot hit the pin and bounced 20 feet away. It seemed it just wasn’t meant to be.
Still, he continued to play. Golf fans would see his name pop up on leader boards from time to time and every now and then he would sneak through and win a tournament.
Golf certainly isn’t a bad way to make a living but when you are saddled with the high expectations Sergio was, sometimes it has to be a grind.
He wasn’t thought to be a serious contender at this year’s Masters but as he crouched behind his birdie opportunity on the 73rd hole, Sergio knew it was his time.
Sergio had stuck with it and in the end it paid off. His putt started right and broke left. It looked like it might slide by the hole but it caught the left edge, spun around the lip and dropped in. The crowd went wild.
Heartbreak had been Garcia’s calling card at the majors, but not this day and not this time. He persevered.
Now, whatever he does the rest of his golfing career, when people look up his name, 2017 Masters Champion will be beside it.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.