Masters 2017: Garcia and Rose do Seve proud in Augusta classic


There can be no doubt. Had he been around to witness the closing stages of the 2017 Masters, Seve Ballesteros would have loved every single moment.

On the 60th anniversary of Ballesteros' birth, Augusta played host to the most fitting storyline imaginable as Sergio Garcia finally secured his first major title, after an agonising string of near-misses.

READ MORE: Garcia wins first-ever Major

In 73 major appearances prior to this week, Garcia had recorded 22 top-10 finishes and been a runner-up on four occasions.

Yet, at long last, at the end of a thrilling duel with Justin Rose that will linger long in the memory, this was his time.

The great Seve needed only 10 attempts to win his first major, at the 1979 Open Championship, and went on to claim another victory in his very next appearance, at Augusta in 1980.

Yet while both Ballesteros and his great friend Jose Maria Olazabal were able to claim two Masters titles apiece during their illustrious careers at the highest level, the tournament had not been kind to the man who succeeded that duo as Spain's premier player.

Indeed, it was at Augusta that a frustrated Garcia famously claimed he felt he would never win a major, after a poor third round in 2012. "I'm not good enough," he bluntly stated. "I don't have the thing I need to have."

Five years later, as a typically breathtaking final round in Georgia provided the richest entertainment, Garcia had exactly what was required.

On more than one occasion on Sunday, a familiar tale of woe looked set to unfold.

After opening up a three-shot lead through five holes, he was swiftly pegged back by Rose. Then, as the final pair began their assault on the back nine, Garcia's form suddenly deserted him, scrappy bogeys at 10 and 11 enabling his playing partner to seize control.

By the time Garcia tugged his drive left at the par-five 13th, leading to a penalty drop, he looked a busted flush, destined to endure heartache once again on the grandest stage.

What followed was spectacular.

A heroic par save on 13 gave Garcia a significant lift, particularly as his rival missed a presentable chance to make birdie and move three clear. Seemingly rejuvenated, he then fired an approach to six feet at the 14th, setting up a birdie, before topping that with a stunning second on the next that led to an eagle.

Rose, to his credit, followed Garcia's three on 15 with a birdie of his own, meaning the two were together at nine under with three to play.

And now both men were firing on all cylinders, their laser-like tee shots on the 16th landing within eight feet as Augusta's packed galleries watched on in awe.

Still, there were more twists. Garcia missed his birdie try to fall behind, his putting stroke appearing vulnerable under pressure, before Rose bogeyed the 17th to leave things all-square again as the final hole loomed.

Then came the most painful moment yet for those hoping for a Spanish victory.

After Rose had got a lucky bounce with his approach to 18, Garcia fired yet another magnificent iron to five feet. When Rose's subsequent putt for a three just about stayed up, it seemed as though the end was nigh.

Yet the drama continued. Garcia's ball was never on the right line and did not even touch the edge of the hole, and for all the world it felt like his best chance had passed. Having seen so many key putts slip by in previous majors, Garcia had been found wanting with the blade once again when it mattered most. This was truly as cruel as it comes.

As the players and patrons readied themselves for a play-off, Rose - already a major winner following his 2013 U.S. Open triumph - looked the favourite once more, but it was the Englishman who blinked first on the return to 18, sending his drive right.

Handed a second opportunity, Garcia was not in the mood to turn it down and he soon stood on the final green again, 12 feet from the hole, with the luxury of knowing two putts would be enough to end his wait.

A solitary stroke secured the sweetest of victories and it was not long before cries of 'SERGIO, SERGIO' rang out as the new champion blew kisses to his adoring public.

Rose, classy as ever, was swift to offer warm and sincere congratulations - typifying the spirit that had been evident throughout the pair's glorious duel.

Both men did themselves and Seve proud.

What to read next