Justin Rose reacts to missing a putt on the 18th hole. He and Sergio Garcia both finished at 9-under, forcing a playoff.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Justin Rose never blinked. Not when he fell behind early to his friend, Sergio Garcia. Not when his European Ryder Cup teammate electrified the crowd with a stunning eagle that conjured memories of another Spaniard who won a green jacket. Not when he bogeyed the 71st hole to set up what has seemingly become commonplace — another dramatic ending at golf’s grandest theater.
But he did wince when his 9-foot birdie putt at the final hole of regulation slid mercilessly on the low side of the cup. And he finally did blink when his friend, Sergio Garcia, finally ended one of the longest droughts in golf.
“If I had anyone I had to lose to, it’s Sergio,” Rose said. “He’s had so much heartache out there.”
Rose was looking for another major title to go with the U.S. Open he won at Merion in 2013. And he was looking for a green jacket that would mesh well with the gold medal he won at the 2016 Olympics.
Instead, he got another runner-up finish at the Masters, his second in three years. This one, though, was different. In 2015, he finished four shots behind Jordan Spieth’s record-tying score. This went to a playoff.
“It was a wonderful battle,” Rose said. “He rallied and had a great comeback.”
Rose and Garcia are friends. Their hug when it was all over late Sunday afternoon, right there in the fading sunlight on the 18th green, was proof. So was the long embrace Garcia even received from Rose’s wife, Kate. They were happy for Garcia, who had won more than 30 times around the world but never in a major championship.
He was 0 for 73 before he finally ended the misery. Only Lee Westwood, who now is 0 for 76, has a longer streak.
Rose was happy for Garcia. He was disappointed, but not devastated, for himself.
“It must have been fun to watch,” Rose said. “I felt pretty much in control of my game and the tournament for the most part all day, and Sergio did what he had to do to make a run and I came back at him.”
It was, right down to Garcia’s unbridled reaction to finally winning a major championship. They exchanged shots and they exchanged runs, some more dazzling than others.
Rose was three behind after five holes when Garcia began the final round with birdies at Nos. 1 and 3. He rallied with three consecutive birdies to head into the back nine at Augusta National all square with his playing partner. When it appeared Garcia was reverting to his old form and letting another opportunity slip away, he overcame three errant tee shots in Amen Corner with an all-world par at No. 13, a birdie at 14 and his dramatic eagle at 15, putting the twosome in a dead heat for the final three holes.
Still, after making an 8-foot birdie at the par-3 16th to regain a one-shot margin, Rose will remember a missed par putt at No. 17 that opened the door for Garcia.
“I would say this one probably is one that slipped by, for sure,” Rose said. “You know, barring a great comeback from Sergio, it was mine to cruise to the house. But it’s not always that easy. I always said, before I won at Merion, you’re going to win majors and you’re going to lose majors but you’ve got to be willing to lose them. You’ve got to put yourself out there. You’ve got to hit the top of the leader board. There’s a lot of pressure out there and if you’re not willing to enjoy it, then you’re not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”
Rose had put himself out there a number of times, too, before winning a major title. He was 0 for 36 before he won the U.S. Open at Merion in Ardmore, Pa. Since then, he has had five top-six finishes, including three runners-up, in major championships.
“Sergio is obviously the best player not to have won a major, no longer,” Rose said. “That’s great. Any time one of those types of players, there’s a handful of them, and any time one of those guys gets that huge monkey off their back, I think it makes it a poignant major championship.”
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @gerrydulac.
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