Even the late, great Severiano Ballesteros - he of the outrageous imagination and ceaseless ambition - would not have dared script this scenario.
Sergio Garcia, the golfing heir who had palpably failed to live up to the billing, at last breaking his major duck. At the Masters. On what would have been Seve's 60th birthday.
Of course, being Garcia, it did not feature a straight-forward plot. Indeed, his play-off victory over Justin Rose - trying to become the second English winner in succession - stretched reality way beyond the incredulous. Sergio just had to do it as Seve did it. When seemingly down and out and then with so much guts and panache.
Garcia had appeared to have blown it - yet again – when missing a five-footer on the final hole of regulation. Remember this is the venue where, just a few years ago, the 37-year-old declared he could never win. Yet this time, unlike at Caroustie at the 2007 Open, it was not the Spaniard who cracked in extra time.
After Rose had sliced it into the trees on the 18th and been forced to chip out, Garcia hit a sumptuous approach. And when Rose missed his 12-footer for par, Garcia had two for it from 10 feet. He putted it anyway – well, Seve would have – and signaled to the sky and hugged his fiancé, Angela Akins, whom he is soon to marry. The entire picture is all he has ever dreamed of.
After 73 majors, 22 top 10s, 12 top fives, six top threes and four runners-up placings, someone else will now have to don that tag of “best player never to have won...”.
It was hard on Rose, who has finished here twice in the last three years. He was as gracious as we have come to expect from this fine role model, although he did shed a tear after his moment of defeat. And there is no wonder in that. The 36-year-old was two clear with six to go and seemed almost certain to become the first European to win both the Masters and US Open. But the Olympic champion did not begrudge his Ryder Cup team-mate the destiny for which he has waited for so long.
What a duel this was, rapidly turning into a two Euro thorough-bred race. Garcia was first to rise, birdieing the first and the third to steal a two-shot advantage on his playing partner. But Rose is not easily psyched out and, despite going three into arrears with a three-putt bogey on the fifth, he struck back with three birdies in a row from the sixth. They had opened up a gap by the turn and proceeded to launch their fight way off into the sunset.
Yet while Rose stayed solid and stern, Garcia began to flap. There were bogeys on the 10th and 11th and when he went into trees on the 13th, it appeared that he could be done. But after a penalty drop he made an unlikely par straight out of the Seve manual. Rose was on in two of that par-five and looked on the brink of a four-shot lead. He three-putted and the momentum switched.
Garcia was inspired and birdied the next, pumping his fist as he did so. He was doing so again, yet more strenuously, on the 15th. The drive of 330 yards was special, the iron to 14-feet matched it and the eagle putt confirmed it. He was nine-under and one ahead.
His lead lasted all of a minute. Rose, inscrutable behind those sunglasses, nervelessly holed his five footer for a birdie.
The par-three 16th ramped up the volume. Garcia span in his tee-shot to eight feet and Rose replied to 12 feet. Rose holed, Garcia missed and it was the Briton with the advantage again.
So the pendulum swung once more, with Rose coming up short on the par-four 17th and finding the bunker with his approach. With Garcia in for par, Rose yanked the six-footer and they marched to the 18th in parity. The galleries around the 18th green screamed their approval when the leaderboard showed that it was all square. And the tension built and built.
Somehow, both of the protagonists both hit the fairway, and both played incredible approaches, Rose’s quite fortunate bouncing of the back to within eight feet. Rose put his hand to his mouth when he tugged it wide, believing Garcia would do the necessary from above the hole. He never even hit the hole. They went back to the tee.
Advantage Rose, or so we all thought. Except wobbled and Garcia said “no, not this time.” And somewhere Seve screamed in delight as his young hombre joined him and Jose Maria Olazabal as Garcia joined them in the Masters roll of honour.
In all this frenzy it was easy to miss South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 winner, finishing third on six-under after a 68 and the young Belgian Thomas Pieters coming fourth on his debut on five-under, also with a 68, alongside Matt Kuchar.
Paul Casey made sure there at least two Englishmen in the top six for the second year running, with his 68 for four-under. Each of these added to the atmosphere.
It was such a gripping finale which featured Jordan Spieth once more coming to grief on the 12th. Spieth eventually signed for a 76 and a level par total which for the 23-year-old at Augusta also amoints to an aberration. His record in the Masters now reads 2nd-1st-2nd-15th. Hardly shameful.
Rory McIlroy’s 69 took him to three-under and a tie for seventh. The most notable moment of his pairing with Kuchar, was when then American made a hole-in-one at the 16th. It was McIlroy’s fourth Augusta top 10 in as many years, but strangely he seems no closer to winning. He should ask Garcia about Augusta. Never give up. Accept what it chucks at you.One day it throw the bouquet your way. And it is worth the wait.
That was quite something
I hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did.
Stay tuned for James Corrigan's report from Augusta.
Danny Willett hands Garcia his Green Jacket
Soak it all up
"To do it on Seve's 60th is amazing"
2017 Masters Champion Sergio Garcia:
It's been such a long time coming. I thought I had that putt on the 18th. It broke left in practice, but for some reason it didn't.
Today I felt the calmest I've ever felt on a major Sunday. Even after making a couple of bogies I still felt positive. I hit some good shots coming in. I'm so happy.
To do it on Seve's 60th birthday, to join him and Olazabal, to two idols in golf and life, is amazing.
I probably hit one of the best eight-irons I've ever hit on the 15th. From the tee we didn't know where it had gone off the pin. But then I hit a great putt as well.
At the end of the day we're all trying to win, but we're all people. Justin and I are good friends so we were cheering each other on. We wanted to beat the other guy, not for the other guy to lose it.
The agony and the ecstasy
Sergio has proven a lot of people wrong today
Everyone thought he would crumble. He nearly did when Rose was charging at the start of the back nine, but Garcia's eagle on 15 was the turning point.
What a finish
Garcia falls to his knees and embraces friends and family. It's almost a little understated. I was expecting tears. Maybe later.
SERGIO GARCIA IS THE 2017 MASTERS CHAMPION
Who needs two putts when you can sink it in one?!
Always looked like it was going left. Right weight, wrong line.
Sergio has two putts for the win. He will never have a better opportunity than this to win a major.
Players on the green
Rose takes his time to measure up his putt. About 18 foot out.
A good approach from the Englishman puts him 20 feet away. He will play first for par. Then it will be Garcia with a chance for birdie.
Rose really needs to sink this, otherwise Garcia can play it safe for a two putt.
Garcia's on the green
About 15 foot from the pin. With Rose effectively a shot behind, this is a big swing for the Spaniard.
Sergio to play next
Rose half shanks his second shot, never got it off the ground. Sergio needs just one, clean approach to the clean and it's his to lose.
Great spot from Justin Thomas
You're not allowed phones at Augusta. Someone nick that man.
Can we talk about the guy in the bucket hat getting a phone in? https://t.co/lfqI5DQSEX— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) April 9, 2017
Garcia on the fairway
Confident drive from the Spaniard. Advantage Sergio.
A professional insight into the mindset of a playoff from a former US Open winner:
Never been in a Major playoff but typically after pressure of the finality of 72 holes a playoff can be quite liberating. Good golf coming.— Graeme McDowell (@Graeme_McDowell) April 9, 2017
Justin Rose to play first
Psychological advantage for the Englishman.
He doesn't look best pleased with his tee shot, though. It sails into the trees but gets a kind bounce and comes to lie in the open, nestling in the pine needles. He doesn't know that yet. He just looks sad.
We're back to the 18th tee
Sudden death it is, alternating between holes 18 and 10, which run next to each other at Augusta.
The U.S. Open has a Monday playoff in which the players play a full 18 holes on Monday. Thank goodness we don't have that. What a ridiculous anti-climax that would be. On a Monday!!
Who's your money on?
You'd think Justin Rose would be favourite. He is the major winner and Garcia will need to put that miss out of his mind sharpish. The Englishman is also the more reliable putting-wise.
That was always going right. Misread. What an opportunity. Let's hope that doesn't break him for the play-off. Which is coming right up.
Just. Looked for all money like that was rolling in. It drifts right by a whisker.
Sergio. Is this your time?
Rose can't watch. I'm not sure I can either, but I have to.
The defending champ is enjoying his weekend off
Birdie putts coming up
Sergio goes even closer. Direct at the pin and gets it to plug. No luck needed there. About five/six foot for birdie.
Rose to play first.
I think the crowd is backing Sergio.
A slice of luck for Rose
The Englishman has 151 yards to the hole and doesn't quite catch the approach. He gets a lucky bounce and it rolls to within about 15-foot.
Both have given themselves a chance off the tee
In the history of the Masters, six players have birdied 18 in regulation to win outright: Wall, Palmer, Player, Lyle, O'Meara Mickelson.— Augusta.com (@AUG_Masters) April 9, 2017
Two wonderful drives
Rose responds in kind and walks away from the tee with a swagger. Rose to hit first.
The crowd likes the look of Sergio's tee shot. So does he. A little ripper from the Spaniard. Wellies it down the middle of the fairway.
All square going to the last
Sergio tinkles in his tiddler.
It's all happening. Definite nerves. Rose is too tentative this time. Opening for Sergio.
Garcia misses for birdie
Another weak putt from Sergio. His putting game proving his achilles game once more. He's left that a good three feet short. Never enough on that.
Spieth and Fowler done for the day
Rose chips himself out of the bunker, but will still have a testing six or seven foot for par.
Jordan Spieth finishes with a nice birdie on the 18th to end one under. Not his day today. Fowler misses his birdie chance and cards a 76. They're challenge just never materialised.
Garcia on the green
His shot has the legs where Rose's didn't. He knocks his ball about 25 feet below the hole. Slightly unlucky not to get the hop to roll towards the hole. A sliding putt for birdie to come.
Rose will hit first.
Rose is in the bunker
He doesn't have the distance to make the green. Not an overly difficult bunker shot, but Garcia can pile on the pressure with a good approach.
Rose to play first
Ryan Moore with a nice birdie at 18 to finish with 74 and in a tie for ninth place.— Augusta.com (@AUG_Masters) April 9, 2017
...having some technical difficulties with what are supposed to be some nifty graphics of the final two holes. Technology always fails you when you need it most.
Off the 17th tee
Rose is on the right in the cut rough but shouldn't pose too many problems. Sergio is perfectly positioned.
Worth a watch
He leaves it short. Nerves got the better of him? Rose back into the lead.
Shots are dropping everywhere. He rolls in his left to right from seven foot. Perfectly paced.
Over to you, Sergio...
Schwartzel into clubhouse lead
The South African sinks a long birdie on the 18th to become the clubhouse leader at six under
How they shape up on the 16th...
Rose hits his approach somewhat close at 16. He'll putt first. Standing ovation from #themasters patrons.— Augusta.com (@AUG_Masters) April 9, 2017
This is some serious golf
Deep breath from Sergio at the 16th tee. He knows this could be it. He casts an anxious eye over his tee shot but there's no need. It hits the green and rolls back to within 20 feet of the pin.
Rose's shot does likewise.
Rose holds his birdie putt, but it's all about one man
You absolutely, 100% cannot break our hearts again after that.— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) April 9, 2017
This is how close Sergio came to holing that fairway shot on 15. That's the ball mark pic.twitter.com/Yxa835ggII— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) April 9, 2017
EAGLE FOR GARCIA
When the pressure is on...
Rose makes a decent fist of his eagle putt. It rolls right and leaves him about five-foot for birdie.
"That was something very, very special."
Says Andrew Cotter of Sergio Garcia's approach shot. An absolute peach, pitching five foot in front of the pin, bouncing into it and coming to rest about seven foot to the right for an eagle putt.
Rose shouts "down". It does exactly that and stops at the back of the green, but it's nowhere near Sergio.
Shades of Carnoustie hitting the stick.— Scott Michaux (@ScottMichaux) April 9, 2017
Schwartzel in position on the 18th
A good approach leaves him with a chance to move six under.
The set up
Rose with 213 to the hole in the 15th fairway. Big, big shot here.— Drew Forrester (@itsahooded4iron) April 9, 2017
Garcia has 195 or so. #Masters
Advantage Garcia off the 15th
Rose doesn't quite connect with his tee shot. Garcia has the distance, but they're both on the fairway.
A cool cat indeed.
Spieth birdies 16
He moves back to evens. I didn't think I'd be writing that at the start of the day.
Justin is one cool cat
Rolls it straight down the middle. Never in doubt. His lead is cut to one, though. Still four holes to play.
Big birdie for Sergio
He's back in the game. Now Rose has a tricky putt for par. This could change in the blink of an eye.
Westwood cards a 74
He ends on +1 for the tournament. Not the final round he would have hoped for.
Pieters shares clubhouse lead with Kuchar
He drops his par to end on five under. Four under for the day. A future major winner you would think. To state something that you have definitely heard before.
Leaders on 14th green
Justin Rose lands his approach on the down slope and it rolls tentatively towards the pin, but he hit it a little too far left of the pin to set up a real birdie chance.
Garcia is much more direct. It plugs then spins towards the hole to leave a ten-footer for birdie.
Pieters badly misreads his birdie putt. He has a five-footer for par.
Pieters with a chance of birdie on 18
It's another big approach shot from the Belgian. He desperately needs to sink it to have any chance, if at all.
Leaders hit the 14th fairway
Garcia's first solid start in a few holes.
Paul Casey finishes with a birdie. He's tied for sixth at four under par. A strong final round for the Englishman.
Rory McIlroy on his round of 69:
It was solid. I didn't quite get off to the start I wanted to. I took advantage of most of the par-fives. I just didn't get as much momentum as I wanted and it was battling 69. It wasn't enough.
I handled the conditions well on the first two days, but I had an opportunity yesterday to shoot something in the mid-60s but I didn't do that. It's another top ten finish but it's not quite what I was looking for.
A neat summary of the leaders on 13
Golf: a guy almost chips in for eagle and settles for a 5. Other guy? Penalty from a bush. Drops. Up and down. 5. Same score. #masters— Garry Frank (@GarryFOX17) April 9, 2017
Clutch putt for Garcia
He drops in his par from seven feet. He needs Rose to miss. He does. I'd have put my house on him to sink that if I had one.
Hoffman bogeys 15 to fall to +4 on the day and in a tie for 15th. The top 12 and ties earn a return trip to the 2018 Masters.— Augusta.com (@AUG_Masters) April 9, 2017
Rose with a chance to move three clear
Garcia does well to recover to give himself a chance of par after his horror show off the tee. Justin Rose judges a monster eagle putt from the back of the green to perfection, leaving five foot or so for birdie.
Pieters hits the green at 17, leaving him a 20-footer for birdie. He really needs to sink it, but it rolls harmlessly by. His challenge likewise.
Schwartzel passes up a birdie opportunity on the 16th. With each miss Rose moves closer to that Green Jacket.
McIlroy finishes at three under
After he pars the 18th. Probable top ten finish for the Ulsterman. Will be interesting to hear whether he's content with that.
Schwartzel birdies 15th
He moves to five under. Three to play.
We've barely mentioned this man since he hit the back nine.
Matt Kuchar is the clubhouse leader, finishing at five under. A final round of 67 including a hole-in-one. Decent.
Pieters bogies 16th
His challenge ends almost as soon as it began.
The wheels are coming off for Sergio
I've resisted saying it as much as I could, but he takes a big risk off the tee at 13, misses the bunker but ends up in no mans lad, his ball lying somewhere in a ditch.
Pieters also going for broke makes an error at 16.
He'll need another birdie and help from Rose/Sergio but hell of a debut from Pieters. Will be a name to watch at Erin Hills this summer - JB— Golf World (@GolfWorld) April 9, 2017
Justin puts one hand on a green lapel.
Rahm triple bogeys at the last
Such a shame for the debutant. He looks devastated by that. He ends at three over.
Pieters has done okay out of the bunker to give himself a chance of par at 16.
Garcia in for par at 12, also.
Par for Rose at 12
A decent birdie attempt from range but it runs right. Gimme par.
Rooting for Sergio at a major is like watching Titanic. No matter how many times you've seen it, you keep praying Jack makes it -- JB— Golf World (@GolfWorld) April 9, 2017
Scott is in the water
He took a risk out of the rough at 15 but it didn't pay off.
Sergio under hits on 12. Still work to do for the Spaniard.
Garcia and Rose on the green at 12
Rose about ten foot closer to the pin.
Rickie Fowler birdies at 13 to move back to four under.
We're on Pieters Watch now, since he's decided he'd look good in green. But his tee shot from 16 is awry, possibly in a bunker.
Pieters joins the chase
The Belgian overestimates the turn on the 15th for a potential eagle, but he should be in for another birdie regardless. He moves level with Garcia at six under after four consecutive bogies.
Garcia rolls in his bogey putt.
Rose two up
Rose has the opportunity to take his lead to three but he misreads the break on his birdie putt. He leaves with par.
Adam Scott hits back-to-back birdies
He moves to four under.
Garcia misses par.
After a good escape from the woods, Garcia overcooks his putt on the green and swings wide and long. Tricky shot to save bogey here. This could be pivotal.
Schwartzel has horribly overshot his wedge on 14 and he leaves himself further away from the hole than he started. It's a good effort to save par, but not good enough. Shot dropped and he moves back to three under.
Couples finishes with a birdie
He goes round in 72 to finish on +1.
McIlroy birdies 16
He moves to three under. What might have been.
That is about as well as he could have possibly played it, sneaking it through the only gap available between trunk and shrubbery to land it on the brow of the hill before the ball rolls down onto the green.
Rose, however, gets himself within 15-foot of the pin for another birdie chance.
Honestly there is no way through
A whole hunk of trunk
Uh oh, Sergio
He's behind a tree again, but this one is massive.
And here it is
Fowler bogies twelve
Back-to-back bogies for Rickie. He drops back to three under and his challenge is surely toast. A ham and cheese toastie. Unless he can Kuuuuuch it at 16.
The man of the moment has just handed his ball to a young boy on the side of the green. Lovely stuff.
A hole in one on the 16th! He moves to five under.
Rose into the lead
A good effort from Garcia, who rolls it close enough to bag a tap in for bogey. Could have been worse. Opportunity for Rose to take the lead if he can hold par. And he makes it look easy.
Please someone explain this to me?
Regime change at the top?
Garcia is slap bang behind a sapling. It sounds like his ball clips it branches but it runs through and over to the other side of the green, leaving a monster putt for par. He could have done with that branch taking a bit more off pace of that. Encouragement for Rose, who plays conservative on his approach, leaving a seven-footer for par.
Fowler bogies the eleventh after a wild tee shot. He drops back to four under. Four shots now separate the leaders and the chasers.
Birdie for Pieters
Pieters was in for eagle, not birdie. Apologies, hit refresh. He sinks it, though, so moves to four under.
Garcia in trouble at ten
He's in the bushes somewhere after his second shot. Rose can't quite find the green but he's in a much better position than his partner.
Pieters falls foul of Augusta's fast greens and his eagle putt runs a good six feet past the hole.
Ham and cheese, Ricky
Thomas Pieters nails his approach to give himself an eagle chance at 13. If it drops he'll move to within four shots of the lead with five to play.
Rickie Fowler gets a slice of fortune with his tee shot at eleven, which sails into the crowd but he gets a lucky lie. Some bloke in the crowd shouts "ham and cheese, Rickie," as he plays his approach, which he hooks. Don't know what that means but it has made me hungry. A ham and cheese sand wedge, possibly?
Which horse are you backing?
Sergio has looked in control of his game today, but some people are just eternal pessimists.
Sergio goes out with a bogey free 34 and I still don't feel good about it. They can be putting the jacket on him and I'll still be skeptical— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) April 9, 2017
Leaders level going into the back nine
Rose rolls his ball up to the edge of the hole at nine for what should be a gimme par. Garcia has a 15-footer for birdie but misreads the downhill and it stays left. Both hole their par putts.
Rickie Fowler is desperately unlucky with a monster birdie effort at ten. Casey likewise at thirteen. Both players have gone for the flourescent orange trousers and white T-shirt combination. Fowler carries it off with a little more swagger.
Schwartzel in position on twelve
Excellent approach shot presents another birdie opportunity.
Rose's approach at nine sticks in the green, despite the Englishman urging it to roll forward. That damned, disobedient ball. Garcia's ball behaves impeccably, rolling, rolling towards the hole before coming to rest about seven foot out. Nice birdie chance for the Spaniard.
Leaders level as we hit the turn
Last guy Sergio wants to see alongside him on back nine is Justin (The Iceman) Rose, sauntering along, never cracking. #themasters— Brian Murphy (@knbrmurph) April 9, 2017
Schwartzel still in the hunt
The 2011 Champion has just birdied eleven to move to four under.
And Thomas Pieters birdies twelve to move to three under. A little too far back, perhaps.
Charley Hoffman, meanwhile, is going in the opposite direction. He bogies to move two under and two over for the day.
Big Phil is done at Augusta for another year. He goes round at evens to end the tournament at two over.
Justin Rose is Pink Floyd?
I don't understand the French sometimes. Or French, for that matter.
All square at the top
Apologies, they are on for birdies, which Rose sinks. Big, big putt for the Englishman. He moves level with Garcia as the Spaniard leaves his putt left of the hole. All square.
Leaders at the eighth green
The leaders are slightly haphazard with their approaches to the eighth green. Rose hooks it and Garcia runs his too fast. Both with work to do for their birdies.
Rickie Fowler does well with his approach at nine to leave himself with a straight yarder up the hill for a par, which he sinks. Spieth nearly drops in a long range birdie but leaves a gimme par.
Westwood narrowly rolls a long birdie attempt by the hole at eleven.
Paul Hayward at Augusta
Masters Sunday is one of the most absorbing days in world sport. Its brightness and drama hold the gaze. The contest itself lurches this way and that, often cruelly. For the players, a place in the final pairing is both an honour and a pressure-raiser because it identifies the two most likely winners.
It helps, then, when two friends stride down the first fairway side by side, laughing. As the Europeans Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose set off behind America’s Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, it felt like a Ryder Cup match, with the Augusta National Club enlivened by European shouts.
This lively send-off seemed to work for Garcia, on the day Seve Ballesteros, the Masters champion in 1980 and 1983, would have been 60. At the first, his approach shot landed five-feet from the pin and a birdie pushed him one stroke clear of Rose. At the third, Garcia knocked in an eight-foot birdie putt to extend his lead to two.
This early flourish had the custodians of the Ballesteros story dusting off the details of his relationship with Garcia back in the days when ‘Sergio’ was tipped to be the next ‘Seve.’ But there is a long way to go, and many rivers to cross.
Casey slipping out of the race
Casey is tentative with a birdie chance at twelve. He needs a Rahm at 13 to stay in the race.
A pair of corkers at 13
Jon Rahm has just sunk an absolute monster for eagle on the 13th to flip from over to under for the tournament. A wedge out of the bunker curves beautifully round the green and plinks off the pin and into the hole.
Then McGirt follows up with a monster putt from the edge of the green for birdie.
Birdie for Fowler
Rickie Fowler hasn't given up the ghost just yet. A superb approach at the par-five eighth leaves him with a birdie opportunity to go within three shots of the lead. He needs to sink it. And he does.
Jordan Spieth misses his birdie chance. It just hasn't clicked for him at all today.
Garcia just about saves par as his putt catches the right edge of the hole and wiggles in. Keeps the bogey off the cards.
Justin Rose has a real chance to get within one with a five-footer for birdie. In she goes, here comes Rose...
...and history is on his side.
Last time an Olympic golf gold medalist didn't go on to win the Masters: 1904.— Cameron Morfit (@CMorfitPGATOUR) April 9, 2017
Tables turning at the top
Pressure on Garcia here as Justin Rose has put himself in position for a birdie at seven. Garcia is wrestling with a bunker and leaves himself with a fast ten footer for par.
Westwood bogies eight
He moves back to evens. His challenge is done now, realistically.
James Corrigan reports from Augusta
Has any other defending Masters champion ever played on a public course less than five miles from Augusta National on the final day of the season’s first major? The answer will be a resounding no, and the circumstances are all to the credit of Danny Willett.
Despite missing the cut here on Friday – the first defending champion to do so since Mike Weir in 2004 – the Englishman’s presence was, of course, required here yesterday evening to fulfill the tradition of the immediate past winner putting the Green Jacket on his successor in the Butler Cabin.
Yet as if to show that his dreadful run the last few months has not in any way softened his love for the game, his camp rang up Forest Hills Golf Club on Saturday evening to allow the world No 17 to take his turn among the hackers yesterday morning.
That is golf for you. One year on Master’s Sunday you are overhauling Jordan Spieth to win your first major in front of a global audience estimated to be more than a billion – and the very next Masters Sunday you are playing in front of a crowd estimated to be none. Apart from a few startled employees in the pro shop who had noticed his name on the starting sheet.
Garcia sinks it. His lead is now two. Is this shaping up into a straight fight between the final pair?
Spieth and Fowler both save par at seven.
After that storming run through Amen Corner Martin Kaymer finishes with a bogey to end on four under for the day and evens for the tournament.
Carl Schwartzel joins his partner Adam Scott on three under with a birdie at nine.
Rose birdies six
Garcia with a five footer for par to come.
Spieth in trouble again at seven.
Birdie for Westwood on nine
He moves to two under.
Garcia really is proving his doubters wrong so far.
Sergio is the only player in the final four tee times to be under par today. The lead grows to 3 strokes.— Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck) April 9, 2017
But Justin Rose roars back at the sixth with a wonderful approach shot to leave a very sinkable birdie.
McIlroy's birdie attempt at eleven comes up short. Seven behind the leader with seven to go. It's not going to be his year.
Pack falling back
Rickie Fowler saves par at six to stop the rot. Spieth rolls his past and takes a bogey. He's dropped back to two under.
Hoffman can't roll in his bogey putt and takes a double to drop back join Spieth on two under. Is that the end of his challenge?
And do I even need to say it? Adam Scott gets himself into position for a birdie, but spurns it.
Casey in contention
Charley Hoffman has had a mare at seven. He tries to putt onto the green but it sticks in the fringe. The Californian moving in the wrong direction on the leaderboard.
Justin Rose takes his bogey and Garcia moves three ahead.
Some good news for the English contingent...
Paul Casey birdies 9 to move to 4-under. He is officially in contention, four behind Garcia as he enters the second nine.— Augusta.com (@AUG_Masters) April 9, 2017
Garcia's lead looking solid as chasing pack struggle
Lee Westwood has a tricky shot for par at the eighth, which he just about sinks. Pieters birdies to move two under.
Fowler and Spieth still haven't joined the races. Aintree was yesterday and they are a day late. Both approaches miss the green.
Rose shoots way past the hole at five. Past the green, even. Garcia rolls his to within an inch of the hole. Gimme par.
Fine margins for the leaders
"Go, go, go!" shouts Sergio. He urges his approach at five to land the right side of the hill of the green. It lands right on the ridge and threatens to roll back, but settles for a sideways slide. Phew.
He's now at even money for the win.
Rose is not so fortunate and his ball rolls back to leave him a devilishly difficult putt. He'll do well to get up and down in two.
No birdie for RMac at nine
He stays at one under.
Struggles for the penultimate pairing
Jordan Spieth's birdie putt at five scoots well past the hole, leaving him five or six foot for par. Fowler drops another shot, slinging his par putt left of the hole. Not a gimme bogey, either. But he saves it. He slips to four under.
Adam Scott leaves his birdie attempt on seven right of the hole. Another missed opportunity for the Aussie.
Stewart Hagestad so very nearly birdies his final hole, but the ball refuses to play, er, ball, teetering on the cusp of the cup. Hagestad finishes at six over as the top ranked amateur.
Time running out for Rory
Justin Rose sinks his par shot on four. He remains at evens. Steady.
Couples fails to get up and down from the bunker at 11. The bogey drops him to 1-under.— Augusta.com (@AUG_Masters) April 9, 2017
McIlroy's second shot at nine finds the green but it will be a tough putt for birdie.
Paul Casey slots in a simple birdie chance at eight to move three under. He's just about still in the hunt. McIlroy, you suspect, no longer if he can't sink his next shot.
Kaymer at it again
Rose's long range birdie effort at four turns a little too early and he has a tricky ten footer for par.
Fowler hits the wall of the grandstand at five. Not ideal, but he'll get a free drop to approach the green.
Adam Scott hits a great approach on seven. Another birdie chance. He seems to have been in position on the greens at every hole so far today.
Kaymer birdies the 15th after bogeying the 14th. The German is at -1.
Hoffman bogies the fifth
A 15-footer drifts left. The Hoff slips four shots back.
This one from earlier. Worth it for Henley's expression. Incredulous.
McIlroy birdies the eighth
He moves to one under. Can he get on a Kaymer?
I believe Kaymer is the first this week to go birdie-birdie-birdie at Amen Corner. now has 5 birds in a row.— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) April 9, 2017
Scott finally sinks one
Spieth narrowly misses out on a birdie at four before Adam Scott finally brings his putting game to haul himself back to three under with a birdie at six.
Rickie Fowler has a 13-footer for par, but for once he misses. Role reversal. He'll drop back to five under.
Sergio moves two shots clear
Garcia with another birdie chance at three. He curls it in. You beauty, Sergio. Straight down the middle.
Fitzpatrick goes round in 70
He nearly finishes with a birdie. A good round for the young man from Sheffield, who finishes the tournament at +4.
One of Kaymer's selected highlights for you...
Masters 2017: Martin Kaymer | 12th Hole, Round 4 pic.twitter.com/Dsti8SaYsj— Masters Highlights (@MastersMoments) April 9, 2017
And here was Spieth's position at three. Surrounded by sand.
not easy to miss the sand here and still have your feet on solid ground for the next shot pic.twitter.com/IM9LzxOulO— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) April 9, 2017
Movements at the top
McIlroy is not getting himself in the right positions at present. He does well to save par again at seven but he needs more than that.
Jordan not on his game at the moment. He scoots past the hole at three. His partner Fowler has found himself in a much better position on the green and nails his birdie putt to move to six under and a tie for second with Justin Rose.
Spieth still has a fiddly six-footer for bogey...and it drops.
Adam Scott continues to miss putts, this time another birdie chance at four.
Double bogey for Moore
Hoffman misses a 15-foot birdie putt slide past, but he slots in for par. Ryan Moore can't recover after finding the bunker with his second and chalks up a double bogey to slip back to three under.
Garcia plays an excellent wedge from the bunker to present a good birdie opportunity. Can the Spaniard get off to the perfect start? Not quite. Slides just past the hole. Rose misses an even easier chance. Both move onto to three with their scores unchanged.
Spieth is in trouble again. He's not even on the green yet and his next shot is for par.
Whisper it, but...
Sergio Garcia has made a very confident start with a wonderful tee shot off two.
Now he's found the bunker.
Spieth bounces back
Fowler goes for the wedge and it skips just past the hole, leaving a fiddly shot for par. Spieth rolls in his birdie to recover from his bogey at the first. Fowler then knocks in for par.
Kaymer on a roll
Spieth has found himself in the bunker again at the second. He does okay with a really tough approach shot to give himself a ten footer for birdie from the edge of the green. Fowler overcooks his and it scoots past the edge of the green into the fringe. Should still be in for a par.
McIlroy does well to save par on the par-three sixth. He needs to start sinking some birdies, though.
Kaymer has birdied 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 to race to one under. Where has that come from?
Yes he can! Garcia goes clear at the top of the leaderboard.
Birdie means birdie in Spanish. Who knew?
Couples sinks one at the eighth to move two under.
Rose saves par
Adam Scott just hit the longest drive of the week at No. 3, driving just through the green. A good pitch can set up a birdie. He's -3.— Augusta.com (@AUG_Masters) April 9, 2017
But his putt slips away from the hole. Are his title chances doing the same?
Hagestad has just birdied another to go five over.
Justin Rose plays a solid approach and then saves par with a ten footer. He clenches his fist as he leaves the first unscathed. Can Sergio nail his birdie?
Hoffman follows in his partner for a birdie of his own. It's getting cluttered at the top.
Not so Rosie
Justin Rose in a spot of bother at the first, his ball rolling back down the hill of the green leaving him scrambling to save par.
Sergio hits a cracker to within ten feet of the pin to present an early birdie opportunity.
Ryan Moore birdies the second to move to five under. A potential dark horse for the Green Jacket.
Spieth bogeys the first
Scott's playing partner Carl Schwartzel birdies the second to move three under.
Garcia and Rose find the fairway. That will settle the nerves nicely.
Spieth does well with his approach to give himself a seven-footer for par. Rickie Fowler works some backspin to inch within a few feet. Should be a straightforward par for him.
Here's a turn up: Spieth rolls his par putt past the hole and it keeps on going. He will take his bogey shot before Fowler's par. Both are sunk.
Dangit. Runs it past the left side of the cup and opens the round with a bogey. -3 and three shots off the lead— Spieth Shots (@SpiethShots) April 9, 2017
Paul Casey two putts the fourth for par.
The leaders are out
Garcia and Rose stroll out to the first tee.
Spieth's tee shot took him further to the centre of the bunker than it initially looked, giving him a similar lie to Fowler. The Texan is up first but doesn't catch it cleanly and he has work to do to save par. Fowler gets a better connection but still can't quite reach the green.
Adam Scott misses another birdie chance at the second.
We've already had a lot of these, but this is a cute picture.
Hagestad nearly eagles at 13, but birdies nonetheless. He is at six over, within three shots an amateur rival Curtis Luck who is now back in the clubhouse.
Bunker shots for Spieth and Fowler
Eesch. Westwood lips a five-footer for birdie. He really has to nail every single one of those if he is going to be in with a shout at the end of the day. Plus a few monsters on top.
Fowler and Spieth are under way. Fowler is in the bunker with a tricky lie. Spieth's power gets the better of him, also finding the back edge of the bunker with his 3 wood.
McIlroy misses a ten-foot putt for par on the fourth to slip back to evens.
Paul Casey birdies the second and third to go two under. Movements.
Jordan Spieth walks to the first tee
Westwood in the bunker at the second. A nicely weighted wedge rolls him ten foot away from the hole for par. A little unlucky that it held up. His partner Pieters birdies the second to move two under.
Ryan Moore and Charley Hoffman are under way. Just two more pairs to go.
What a mop that was...
Adam Scott narrowly misses out on a birdie at the first. A better putting game and he would be right at the top of the leaderboard. Is he thinking...?
Daniel Berger chips in from the water bank for a birdie at twelve.
Has Ernie Els played his final round at a major? He has finished at +20, six over for the day. Not his best golf but he was smiling all the way.
McIlroy rolls in for par at the third.
Extraordinary shot at seven
Westwood so very nearly birdies the first. A long range effort comes up just short of the hole and he starts with a par.
Incredible scenes at six. Russell Henley's gets a no bounce par. His approach shot from plenty over 100 yards out plops straight in the hole. Slam dunk; kerplunk. Such was the impact that the hole is now getting some repair work done. In fact, they're just digging a new one, which means those behind Henley will effectively be playing a different hole.
Henley follows that up with a birdie at seven.
Birdie for Rory
McIlroy nearly nails an absolute monster of an eagle on the second, curving it around the green. A birdie par. Solid start for the Ulsterman.
Westwood is out now, but he hits a shaky approach on the first.
Curtis Luck misses out on a birdie chance at the 17th, but he's had a good round today, going one under and eight over for the tournament. Pressure on Hagestad to hold on for that amateur crown. He's at six over thru ten.
Garcia and Rose warming up
They slap hands and embrace on the practice green. Old buddies as they are.
Paul Casey misses a birdie chance on the first. His dodgy putting for the tournament continues.
Rickie Fowler, also pictured warming up his drive, has had no such problems. He has been putting the 'in' in putting so far. An absolute masterclass on the greens from the young American, which could prove crucial through the final stages of today.
Fan of the day
I'm hearing reports from people more in the know than I in this office that Garcia is a big Madrid fan and a more than handy footballer himself.
Here comes R Mac
He pars the first. His partner today is, as it was yesterday, Matt Kuuuuuuchar. Who also rolls in for par.
Fred Couples recovers from a bogey at three with a birdie at four to go back to one under, five shots off the lead.
Matsuyama hits a cracking approach at the eighth; chipping from the rough he gets his ball to spin back dead in front of the pin and its a gimme birdie. He moves to two over.
A few selected highlights from the day so far
An ambitious birdie effort from Justin Thomas comes up just short at the seventh.
Rahm and McGirt are thru one
The Spaniard hit par but McGirt bogeys.
Not long to go until the big hitters come out.
Action gathering pace
Steve Stricker with a birdie putt at seven, a chance to bounce back after bogeying the fifth. The pacing is good but he misreads the line and it rolls past the hole on the right. Still a fiddly five-footer for par to come. His partner Matsuyama has an easier birdie chance from about twelve feet away and he rolls in the slight left-to-righter. He joins Stricker - who sunk his par putt - on three over and one under for the round.
Mickelson's partner Bill Haas is not a happy bunny. He's followed his double bogey at the first with a bogey at at four to go three over for the day.
Jason Dufner has pulled a shot back with a birdie at three. No such luck for Couples, who bogeys to move back to evens.
Branden Grace continues his birdie bonanza, holing another at seven to go two over. Three under for the day.
Mickelson drops further back with a bogey at three to go three over.
Jason Dufner has moved to two over after bogeying the first.
Snedeker and Koepka are both two over, evens for the day thru three.
Here comes Freddie
A couple of birdies for Couples. He moves into the red.
Jimmy Walker and Kevin Chappell have finished the first, Walker hits par but Chappell bogeys.
Couples and doubles
Fred Couples birdies the first to huge cheers from the Augusta crowd.
Mickelson continues his up-and-down form with a double bogey at three. I take some responsibility for that, apologies.
Who is in it to win it?
So with under an hour to go before the leaders come onto the tee, how many of those still in the clubhouse have a realistic chance of slipping on that Green Jacket at the end of the day?
Some sketchy calculations based on Jordan Spieth's mathematics from yesterday evening:
The 23-year-old Texan said he wanted to shoot four under yesterday to be in contention for today, which is exactly what he did. He reckoned on the lead moving from four under to six under at the end of round 3. So, for argument's sake, let's say the lead moves out to eight under (it will probably move by more than that) and the lowest score of the tournament thus far is Charley Hoffman's seven under on day one, that roughly puts everyone from Lee Westwood upwards in with a sniff. Throw Rory into the mix as well, because why not? So at least ten players will think they're in with a shout today. It could get seriously tasty later on. I'm talking Michelin star standard stuff.
Rough guesswork it is, admittedly.
The Stricker Strut
Jason Day bogeys the third. A sticky start for the 2015 PGA winner.
Steve Stricker going well, holing a birdie at four to move to two under for the day and two over for the tournament.
Here is his eagle at two.
Eagle for Mickelson
Steve Stricker rolls in a perfectly judged birdie from the edge of the green on four.
Big Phil then follows in Strickers footsteps with an eagle on the second for the biggest cheer of the day so far.
He is now at evens.
Six shots off the lead.
Mickelson tees off
Big Phil Mickelson has parred the first. Leftie had a somewhat chastening day yesterday, partnering a red hot Jordan Spieth finish in 68 while his own challenge fell away with a round of 74. Phil's partner today is Bill Haas, who has started with a double bogey. Not quite Jordan Spieth, no disrespect to Bill.
Day and Thomas bogey the second, which will be a disappointment for the pair at one of the more birdieable holes on the course.
One for the cameras
Jason Day's tee shot at two ends with an almighty crash, thundering into a helpless cameraman at the side of the fairway. Doesn't seem to have done too much harm, though, so perhaps I'm getting a tad carried away with the excitement of it all.
Brendan Steele is having a storming Sunday. He's moved to two over after a birdie at the seventh. He sits at four under for the day.
Adam Hadwin has hit four consecutive birdies after a bogey at six. He moves to seven over.
Kaymer bogeys three to move back to four over.
Eagle for Stricker
Matsuyama birdies the par-five second, but his partner Steve Stricker goes one better, rolling in a remarkably straightforward eagle after a stunning approach. A fine response to his bogey at the first.
Matthew Fitzpatrick's momentum is checked with a bogey at six.
Branden Grace also birdies the second, which is proving a fruitful hole today.
Day and Thomas par the first.
I’m cheering for Rickie Fowler at The Masters. And it is 100% because of this picture. pic.twitter.com/8ddfMOpisN— Ascot Friday (@Ascot_Friday) April 8, 2017
Who is everyone else rooting for? Sergio Garcia, or Jeremy Corbyn? Would Corbyn make a good golfer? Which sport would he be most suited to? Let me know @MilesDilworth.
Sergio, Justin or Lee. Matters not which, but one of those three tonight for #themasters please.— Charles Dagnall (@CharlesDagnall) April 9, 2017
Low scores are up for grabs
Plenty of birdies getting sunk out there at the moment: Francescoo Molinari at the second, Daniel Berger at the second and third, Kaymer at the first.
R Mac will be liking the look of this. After going round in 71 yesterday, he admitted he would have to play the round of his life to win his first Green Jacket this afternoon. It might just be out there. A few others around him will have perked up, too.
Justin Thomas is getting all soppy on Twitter. He is now at the first tee with Jason Day. The Aussie shot an excellent round of 69 yesterday.
The ONLY bad part about Sunday at @TheMasters is having to wait another year to play in it again.. may as well try to go out with a bang ��⛳️— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) April 9, 2017
Cracking bunker shot from Oosthuizen, who has previous of absolute worldies on this course. He is a blade of grass from sinking it into the hole.
Here he is hitting an albatross at the par-five 2nd in 2012.
Marc Leishman has made a remarkable recovery after a double bogey on one, following up his eagle on seven with a birdie on nine.
Els and Mize both bogey ten and eleven respectively.
Fitzpatrick and Steele continue their fine starts to the day; both have now birdied the first three holes.
For those intrigued by the amateur subplot, Stewart Hagestad has bogied his opening hole. He is now five shots ahead of Curtis Luck, his rival for highest-placed amateur.
Plenty of people willing Sergio Garcia onto his first ever major today. Particularly enjoying the artwork, which I very much hope has been commission especially for the occasion.
Can the Spaniard finally crack the nut? You can read Paul Hayward's thoughts on his prospects here, but here's a little nibble to warm the appetite:
With Garcia, the heart jumps every step of the way, with his putting never fully trusted. And at 13 he lodged his tee-sheet on the steep banks of a stream - a lucky break, but an ominous development given his history. His rescue shot, however, stopped two feet from the pin, and he was almost nerveless from there.
It would have been Seve's 60th birthday today. Is it written in the stars?
Today one of my heros would have been 60. I hope he's up there having a toast with Arnie & watching the drama unfold today!We miss you Seve pic.twitter.com/zJqsKQuuiu— Thomas Bjørn (@thomasbjorngolf) April 9, 2017
Fitzpatrick birdies again at the second. Grillo faulters with a bogey to take him back to six over.
JB Holmes also birdied at two. He and Fitzpatrick are four over.
Many expect this to be Ernie's last major, so it's quite fitting that he will finish first today and, without a partner, will be able to have the crowd on the 18th all to himself.
Els never won a Masters, but Mize, his wooden spoon rival for today, wore the Green Jacket in 1987. Here he is remembering that victory:
Brendan Steele has birdied his first two holes to move to four over. His partner JB Holmes went bogey-birdie, so stays at seven over.
Els grabs another birdie at eight. He's moved level with Larry Mize on fourteen over at the bottom of the leaderboard.
Birdies for Fitzpatrick and Grillo on the first
The Englishman had a tricky couple of days, carding 78 and 73 after his round of one under on day 1. Grillo also finished with 73 yesterday.
Hadwin nails a monster putt for par at four.
Eagle for Leishman
As Adam Hadwin prepares to tee off at five, a huge roar goes up from elsewhere. It's Marc Leishman with an eagle on the seventh.
Bogey hole at three
Hadwin rolls his par putt short at three, before Oosthuizen's birdie attempt drifts right.
Tricky hole location on three today. Could be a few dropped shots. Have a look at three and the rest of today's pin positions: