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Sergio Garcia – a major champion at last.
He got off to a good start and just went for it. He’s always been excellent tee-to-green, and proved it here. Part of the major club now!
Plenty thought Rose would snatch it after Sergio missed his putt on 18.
I can see why. That putt was never going in, it wandered all over the place. But once he hit his spectacular tee shot on the first play-off hole – you just knew the Jacket was his.
Even from his very first tee shot on Sunday, he had the look of a man possessed. Jaw set, glorious birdie on the first and crashed his drive down the second fairway. He was hitting the ball miles off the tee. That 15th hole, I mean he only hit an iron into the corner green. Sergio recently said he’s come to terms with Augusta, and boy did he show it.
Do you think his settled home life has helped?
Oh, for sure. He’s in a happy place domestically and looking forward to getting married to his fiancée, Angela Akins. If you’re happy off the course, you play well on it – he’s much calmer.
He’s very close to his father as well. Victor is a club pro, and practically the only person he fully trusts for golfing advice. Before Sergio went off, you could see they were working on his game a little – it gave him that extra bit of confidence that it would be his day. I know his mother, Consuelo, quite well and the family have been waiting for this breakthrough moment – I’m delighted for them that it’s finally here.
We can’t not mention that Sergio grabbed his first major on what would have been Seve’s 60th birthday. Is it fate?
If ever he was going to win it, it was going to be on Seve’s birthday. What a wonderful omen. Garcia still speaks about Seve often, and Olazábal of course. Even John Rahm pays tribute to Seve, he’s a real Spanish hero.
It speaks volumes about their talent that three different Spanish golfers have now won five Green Jackets, despite not being a big golfing nation!
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At the start of the Sunday, there were plenty of players in contention – but almost all fell away. Why do you think that is?
It was a very tight leaderboard going into the last round, you’re right. 5 strokes separated the first 10 players. There was the potential to have a razor-wire finish. As it turns out we got it, but not in the way most imagined!
I suspected there would be a playoff as the day wore on, the players were all so bunched up. The two players that surprised me were Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler – falling away so quickly. It seems that being good friends worked against them on this occasion. Sometimes it helps, but often it distracts. The atmosphere isn’t quite as heightened and you relax too much.
People will point out that Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose are good friends as well, but you got the sense that they never lost sight of the fact it was still business, despite their camaraderie and the high-fives. They kept each other at the highest level.
Thankfully, Rose was very gracious once it was all over.
Oh, absolutely. He was extremely magnanimous, and that’s what he’s all about. He’s a fine person, Justin Rose, and I’m glad he’s got a major already – and this wasn’t a missed chance at his first. He said all the right things and congratulated Sergio. He’s a special guy and a model professional – he’ll be around for a while yet.
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As will Sergio?
I think so. He’s already been around for a long time. In 1999, he finished second in the US PGA behind Tiger Woods. He’s been second in majors four times and been close plenty of other times. Won the Players Championship as well, which is often seen as the 5th major.
It’s a very long career, despite only being 37. This will set him off, I predict he’ll win a few more majors after this. If guys like Mark O’Meara can not win one until their 40’s, and Jack got another at 46 – there’s plenty of time for him to add to his majors, even 3 or 4. He’s one of the best strikers of the ball around, and, as we said, tee to green he’s excellent.
Plus, can I just say, watching (European) Danny Willett hand over the Green Jacket to (European) Sergio Garcia almost made up for losing the Ryder Cup!
Excluding Garcia and Rose, who do you think will be happiest overall after this Masters?
From a European perspective, it has to be Thomas Pieters. Finishing tied for 4th with 68 on the last day – he looked like a Masters winner in waiting, a big occasion player. My only concern is where he plays his golf year-round. I appreciate he enjoys playing on the European Tour and wants to support it, but if he’s to keep improving – he has to play against the best regularly, and that’s on the PGA Tour.
Paul Casey looked good as well. I’m not sure why, but he doesn’t seem quite able to finish tournaments off – but he played extremely well and finished 6th.
I was keeping an eye out for Rory too, but he didn’t have his best week. But if he can have a mediocre week and still finish tied 7th, imagine what he’ll be like when he’s not recovering from injury and under-prepared!
Two players that seemed likely to play didn’t – Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods.
I felt Tiger would play, but in the end, I don’t think it was even close. I said previously that I thought he would keep going but I’m less sure now. After that withdrawal, he seems to have all but quit. I don’t think we’ll ever see the best of Tiger again. He’s not fit enough to practise enough, let alone play. I would be surprised if he even competes at a major again.
Dustin Johnson, when he recovers, will be favourite again. Even though Sergio’s just won The Masters – DJ’s form was so outstanding beforehand that he will still be the man to beat, the next time he steps on the tee.
Have you ever heard of something like his injury happening before?
Never, it’s just a freak accident and dreadful luck that it happened on the eve of The Masters. I think it was Butch Harmon that talked him out of ultimately competing, and it was the right choice for me. It’s a tough enough course when you’re 100%, so there’s no point just making up the field if you’re not.
US Open next. You’re saying Dustin will be favourite?
Dustin will be the favourite, although he’ll be under a lot more pressure as he’s defending champion. His run-in for The Masters couldn’t have been better with all the wins leading up to it, he’ll never have a better chance. But that will just make him more determined for the US Open.
Don’t forget about Sergio, though. He had a great record in majors without winning, and now he has. Without that mental pressure, he could really fly.