The Masters rarely disappoints, and this year’s 81st edition held true to form.
A third-round leaderboard flush with big names yielded a Sunday duel between two formidable Europeans, genial Englishman Justin Rose and star-crossed Spaniard Sergio García.
Rose, whose résumé boasts a U.S. Open title and an Olympic gold medal, appeared tailor-made for a green jacket. But García ended nearly two decades of major heartbreak with a playoff birdie on what would have been his hero Seve Ballesteros’ 60th birthday.
García, who burst onto the major scene as a scissor-kicking teen chasing Tiger Woods at the 1999 PGA Championship, had been defined more for his Grand Slam failures (0-for-73) than his 21 victories on the PGA and European tours. At The Masters five years ago, he flatly admitted that he didn’t have what it takes to win majors.
He proved himself wrong on Sunday, making a dramatic eagle on Augusta National’s par-5 15th to draw even with Rose. He missed a short birdie putt on No. 18 to win in regulation, but redeemed himself in the playoff by holing from 10 feet after Rose missed his par putt.
The Masters drama began in earnest Wednesday when thunderstorms wiped out the Par-3 Contest and Dustin Johnson’s sock-footed slip on a staircase at his Augusta rental home ended his tournament before it began. At Thursday’s farewell to Arnold Palmer, honorary starters Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player struck the opening tee shots with Palmer’s green jacket draped on a nearby chair, the Golden Bear poignantly waving his cap toward heaven before swinging away.
On Sunday night, it was easy to imagine Seve peering down, a tear of joy in his eye.