While many thought that the premier golf tournament in the world would be lackluster with the withdrawals of world #1 Dustin Johnson and fan favorite Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose proved otherwise with their thrilling back nine battle at Augusta. The main storyline leading up to the Masters was would Tiger Woods be able to compete. The suspense ended on March 31, 2017 when Tiger announced, “Unfortunately, I won’t be competing in this year’s Masters. I did about everything I could to play, but my back rehabilitation didn’t allow me the time to get tournament ready.” Drama revisited the Masters on the Wednesday before the opening tee time, when Dustin Johnson, the world’s number one golfer, fell down three stairs and injured his back. Johnson tried to muster his determination to compete, but was too hurt to play the grueling four-day tournament, which requires mental and physical dexterity.
Thursday was the most difficult day for the field with cold weather and 30mph winds. While most golfers shot above par, Charley Hoffman, a relatively unknown professional golfer, shot a remarkable 65 (-7). Hoffman’s score was phenomenal during a day where golf balls would move from a standstill due to punitive winds. Unfortunately, Hoffman could not extend his stellar play on Friday and Saturday and slipped down the leaderboard. Heading into Sunday, elite golfers Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Jordan Spieth, and Rickie Fowler led the field. The storyline was great: Spieth trying to redeem his 12th hole blowup in 2016, Fowler looking for his first major, Rose looking to be the first British golfer to win the US Open and the Masters, and Garcia looking to win his long sought first major (notorious for choking during majors).
On the front nine Garcia and Rose battled back and forth for the lead with Garcia taking a three shot lead early, only to have Rose erase the lead by the 9th hole. Fowler and Spieth were struggling and by the turn it became obvious this was a two horse race to the finish for the illustrious green jacket. The turning point in the duel came on the 13th hole par 5 when Garcia pulled his drive into an unplayable lie. After the drop, Garcia was punching his third shot from the pine straw and needed an amazing up and down from the fairway to make par. Rose on the other hand hit a beautiful tee shot and a nice second shot that barely went over the green. He was in perfect position to convert for birdie, but missed a makeable putt and settled for par. What should have been a two shot swing to extend his lead to four shots with five holes to play, resulted in Rose remaining only two shots up and gave Garcia confidence he was still in the hunt.
The pinnacle moment of the tournament was Sergio Garcia’s eagle on the 15th hole, which drew them even with three holes to play. Garcia and Rose headed to the 18th tee box tied. As the final grouping, they knew the tournament would be decided on this hole. Both golfers hit the green in regulation, but failed to convert their putts. The golfers headed back to the 18th hole for the first playoff hole (sudden death format). Rose struggled with his tee shot, making it impossible to get home in two. He was forced to lay up and attempt to make par by going up and down from the fairway. Garcia, on the other hand, hit a blistering drive, followed by an approach that left him only twelve feet from the hole. Rose would get on the green after 3 shots and miss his attempt for par, leaving the door open for a Sergio Garcia two-putt for the green jacket. Sergio Garcia channeled his feelings and smoothly drained the putt for birdie. The putt resembled the beauty of Sergio Garcia’s first major at the historic Augusta National. Nineteen years of frustration, four runner-ups in majors, and 73 failed attempts in majors were wiped away from memory as the 12 foot putt landed in the bottom of the cup on the 19th hole. No longer will people refer to Sergio as “the best player to not win a major”.