Thursday 19 October 2017 / 07:28 AM

‘NEARLY-MAN’ ACHIEVES MAJOR DESTINY

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

This old proverb rang true on Sunday at Augusta as Sergio Garcia finally broke through to win his first major at his 74th attempt, winning a playoff against Justin Rose to claim The Masters. No other golfer in history has played more tournaments before winning their first major.

The Spaniard’s story started when, at just 19, he finished runner-up to a 23-year-old Tiger Woods at the 1999 US PGA Championship. Since then, their careers have taken different paths. Tiger has gone on to win 14 Majors while Garcia has built a reputation as the nearly-man of golf.

He’s been in winning positions on several occasions. Indeed, 22 times he has finished in the top 10 at majors but has struggled to overcome those mental demons.

At times he was his own worst enemy. Perhaps his lowest ebb of self-doubt was five years ago when he admitted “I’m not good enough to win a major” after a terrible third round at Augusta. It was a raw confession. Elite athletes very rarely let their guard down not wanting their competition to prey on perceived weakness.

But on Sunday at the Masters, it was Garcia’s crowning moment; the monkey is finally off the back, the demons are exorcised. And just when you thought his 2017 couldn’t get any better, he’s engaged to get married to Golf Channel reporter Angela Akins later in the year.

He started and finished the round tied with Justin Rose, the 2013 US Open champion.

The day was slow in developing but when Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth fell out of contention early, it became relatively clear it was going to be a two-horse race. And when Garcia made bogeys on 10 and 11, you couldn’t help but get that ominous feeling he would fall short again.

This time, though, he showed resilience and poise. First, a birdie at 14 followed by a fabulous eagle at 15.

Garcia missed a putt on the 18th to win in regulation but on the first hole of the sudden-death playoff, Rose hit his tee shot into the trees. The Spaniard was left with two putts to win but only needed one.

It was an electrifying final-round duel with great sportsmanship exhibited between Garcia and Rose.

Affectionately known simply as ‘Sergio’, he is the third Spaniard to don the Green Jacket after Maria Jose Olazabal and the late Seve Ballesteros, the latter of whom would have celebrated his 60th birthday Sunday.

“To join him and Jose Maria, my two idols in golf my whole life is something amazing,” Garcia said.

He’s a popular winner and knowing he has had more than his fair share of heart-break, he deserves this title.

It continues a trend – Garcia he is the sixth consecutive first-time major winner and many of the other five winners were also long due, like Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day.

What made Garcia’s win even more significant and satisfying was he didn’t stroll to a four-shot win. He was under pressure right through the round and his ability to bounce back will hold him in good stead in the future.

“Today, I felt the calmest I’ve ever felt on a major Sunday. Even after a couple of bogeys, I was still positive. I still believed.”

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About the author

Farhan Shah

A recent addition to the roster, Melburnian Farhan is a sports nut who has come on board to provide golf, tennis, AFL and rugby league coverage for CBS.

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