This day in sports history: Sergio Garcia's improbable Masters victory

Jay Hart
·4 min read

Sometimes there comes a competition that just leaves you wondering, “How the hell did he actually win that thing?”

Sergio Garcia’s win at the 2017 Masters is one of those.

The moment Garcia bombed his drive into the woods on Hole 13 in the final round, his tournament was seemingly over. The steady Justin Rose held a two-stroke lead and was sitting pretty in the middle of the fairway, ready to take aim at eagle on the par 5.

An eagle would have put Rose four clear of Garcia, a likely birdie 3. So yeah, it sure looked like game over for Sergio in his quest to finally win a major.

And yet … somehow, Garcia won in a playoff. How? Here are five things that all had to break Garcia’s way over the final seven holes for him to win his first — and to date only — major championship:

1. Garcia had to make an improbable par at 13 and Rose couldn’t eagle or birdie

Garcia making par wasn’t a stretch — take the drop, lay up, knock it stiff and drain the putt, which is exactly what he did. Rose’s tee shot, however, left him just 186 yards to the pin — a middle iron to a large green — meaning eagle was very much in play, birdie a given … until he sailed his approach over the green, chipped up to about 6 feet and then missed that putt for birdie. Rose’s lead remained only two strokes.

2. Garcia’s had to make an eagle at 15

After a birdie on 14 pulled him within 1, Garcia’s approach on 15 hit the pin, which was a bit unlucky. Instead of leaving a short putt for eagle, Garcia’s ball ricocheted about 15 feet from the hole. With Rose in tight for a birdie, Garcia had to make his 15-footer to gain any ground. His long putt died right before the hole, took one more roll … and fell in. All square.

3. Rose had to give one back at 17

Both Garcia and Rose had short birdie putts at 16, but only Rose made it, putting him one shot clear heading to 17. After putting his approach in the bunker, Rose gave himself an uphill 6-footer to salvage par. Make it and he likely only needs par at 18 to win. He missed it, and they went to 18 tied.

4. Sergio had to match Rose on 18

Rose was first to hit the approach on 18, which he pushed left but got a lucky carom that scooted his ball to about 8 feet. Knowing Rose had a solid chance at birdie, Garcia had to be aggressive. He responded by knocking his ball inside of Rose’s. A minute earlier, all the pressure was on Sergio; now it was on Rose, whose birdie putt burned the right edge, but did not fall. Sergio pushed his birdie to the right and they were onto a playoff.

5. Rose had to shank his drive in the playoff

Of the two, Justin Rose is known for his calm under pressure; Sergio … not so much. Which is why it was a surprise when Rose shanked his drive on 18 — the first hole of a 1-hole playoff — into the trees on the right, leaving him no shot at the green. Garcia, meanwhile, drove it down the middle, pitched onto the green and, with Rose already in with a bogey, drained a birdie to win the Masters.

Five impossible tasks, each one needing to fall Garcia’s way. For a guy who’d long been ridiculed as mercurial, hot-headed, too emotional or too lackadaisical to win a major, it was a monumental, legacy-changing stretch of holes, and one of the more remarkable finishes to a Masters in recent history.

(Michael Wagstaffe/Yahoo Sports illustration)
(Michael Wagstaffe/Yahoo Sports illustration)

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