LIVE! THE MASTERS

AT LAST! Sergio Garcia wins the Masters

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Always a bridesmaid, never the bride.

Not anymore.

CBS presenter Jim Nantz called it ‘a day a validation’. It was probably more than that.

On the day the late Seve Ballesteros would have turned 60, Sergio Garcia slipped himself into a green jacket and kissed goodbye to years of nearly man status.

Instead, he was the hero, as echoes of ‘Sergio! Sergio!’ reverberated around Augusta National following victory in a sudden death play-off.

He said Seve was in his thoughts a few times on the final day, but was keen to pay tribute to the support from Olazabal and also his fiancée, Angela Akins, who left notes on the bathroom mirror during the week. “I’m very happy, but I don’t feel any different,” he said when asked if being a major champion would change him. “I’m obviously thrilled at what happened but I’m still the same guy, the same goofy guy, and that’s not going to change.”

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In the end, his first major win was the kind Seve would have been proud of.

It was anything but a procession.

Having driven into the trees at 10 and 11, which saw him bogey both holes, he birdied the 14th and then hit a majestic 8-iron into Augusta’s 15th hole then rolled in the eagle putt to grab a share of the lead.

The last player to eagle the 15th en route to a Masters win was Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999.

Having come so close so many times – 22 top-tens in 73 majors, to be precise – it did look like it was going to be another case of so near yet so far. Yet as one writer questioned whether his career had, at times, felt like a horror show up to this point, the Spaniard was quick to respond with eloquent grace.

“It never felt like a horror movie,” he said. “Maybe a little bit like a drama… but with a happy ending.”

The opportunity for a green jacket was in Garcia’s grasp on the 72nd hole in the shape of a downhill left-to-right four footer – but he somehow misread the putt, sending the 81st Masters into sudden death.

Rose’s tee shot in the play-off leaked right, forcing him to chip out and hit his third from behind Garcia on the fairway.

Garcia then hit his approach from the middle of the fairway to 12 feet, then watched Rose’s par putt slip by. Considering all the aforementioned drama he’d been through to get to this point, he had two putts to write his name into Masters history. He only needed one.

It’s a feeling, he says, he’s going to enjoy for a long time.

“I’m thrilled to be here. It’s been an amazing week and I’m going to enjoy it for the rest of my life. I knew I was play well, very clam, calmer than I’ve felt in any major on a Sunday. Justin wasn’t making it easy, he was playing well, but I believed in what I was doing.

“There is always uncertainty, but the drive this morning to the course, I felt very calm and at ease.

“I played well under the gun. When I get into play-offs I’m quite comfortable and I’m proud of how positive I stayed even when things weren’t going that well.”

On finally shaking the ‘Best Player Never To Win A Major’ monkey off his back, Garcia quipped: “I don’t have to answer to that anymore. Maybe I’m now the best player to only win one major.”

Phil Mickelson, the previous owner of that particular tagline, picked up his first major at the 2004 Masters aged 33. Garcia is 37, and he says he’s get plenty more in the tank. “I feel like I have so much room for improvement. I’m excited. I’m 37, not 22 or 25, but I feel like I have a lot of great years in me. And I’m excited for those.

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