Sergio Garcia of Spain buried the major championship demons that have haunted him for most of his career by beating England’s Justin Rose on the first hole of a playoff on Sunday to win the Masters.
It was the first major championship for Garcia, in his 74th start, and it came on what would have been the 60th birthday of his friend and mentor, Seve Ballesteros.
On the playoff hole, the 18th at Augusta National, Rose hit his tee shot into the trees right of the fairway and needed two more shots to reach the green. He missed a 15-foot par-saving putt.
Garcia, 37, hit the fairway with his drive, hit his second shot to 12 feet above the hole and holed the birdie putt to win.
The two friends and European Ryder Cup teammates, who began the final round tied for the lead, spent most of the day exchanging punches and counterpunches. Garcia led by three at one point of the front nine, but Rose birdied the sixth, seventh and eighth holes to tie and went two ahead when Garcia bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes.
But Garcia rallied brilliantly with a birdie at 14 and an eagle at the par-5 15th, the latter on a 15-foot putt, while Rose two-putted for birdie at 15. Rose regained the lead with a birdie at 16, then bogeyed the 17th and they went to the 18th hole tied.
Each missed short birdie putts at 18 in regulation, Garcia from eight feet to win, and shot matching three-under par 69s to finish 72 holes at nine-under 279.
Charl Schwartzel, the Masters winner in 2011, finished third, three strokes behind.
Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, meanwhile, imploded. Fowler, who began the final round trailing by one, fell off the pace with bogeys at 11 and 13 and eventually shot a 76. Spieth played himself out of contention on the front nine, then hit his tee shot at the 12th hole into the water, just as he did twice in the final round a year earlier. He shot 75 and along with Fowler tied for 11th, eight strokes behind.
Matt Kuchar and Thomas Pieters of Belgium made strong moves up the leader board only to come up short. Kuchar, who made a hole-in-one on the par-3 16th hole, shot a five-under par 67, Pieters, a four-under 68, and tied for fourth.
Best of the Australians was 2013 champion Adam Scott at two-under, tied for ninth.