Garcia overcomes two decades of heartache


Ballesteros, the Spanish talisman who died of brain cancer in 2011, inspired a generation of golfers in his country, winning the Green Jacket in 1980 and 1983.

But it only took one extra hole to decide things with Rose making a bogey, leaving Garcia with the simple task of taking two putts from 15 feet. He cut the margin by another stroke after a birdie on the 13th hole, Spieth's third one of the week. I felt great. I felt in control. "He's had so much heartache out there". Kuchar, who fired a five-under par 67 to finish tied for fourth at five-under 283, was celebrating the ace when he noticed a boy wearing a hat styled like that of PGA Tour-record 82-time victor Sam Snead, a button proclaiming he was a member of Arnie's Army in memory of the late Arnold Palmer, and a loud bright orange outfit matching the style of USA star Rickie Fowler.

Despite McIlroy's failure to parlay his contention into an actual green jacket, those looking for early predictions for next year's Masters (be it in Las Vegas or elsewhere) would be wise to remember past success often breeds more at Augusta. Coming into this year's tournament, Garica had one top five and three top 10 performances at the Masters. This one, though, was different. Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, playing in the penultimate group, had already begun to fade away instead of making the expected charge. This went to a playoff. "He deserves it", Rose said. Their hug when it was all over late Sunday afternoon, right there in the fading sunlight on the 18th green, was proof.

As soon as it was over, Rose walked out to embrace Garcia in the middle of the green. Only Lee Westwood, who now is 0 for 76, has a longer streak.

Prior to No. 18, Rose and Garcia both put in some phenomenal golf. He was disappointed, but not devastated, for himself. "It must have been fun to watch".

Garcia said he felt calmer Sunday than he had on the final day of a major than ever before. They exchanged shots and they exchanged runs, some more dazzling than others.

There was room for a bubble up from a player or two - Thomas Pieters with four consecutive birdies to get to 6 under before he made bogey at a birdie hole, the 16th. When it appeared Garcia was reverting to his old form and letting another opportunity slip away, he overcame three errant tee shots in Amen Corner with an all-world par at No. 13, a birdie at 14 and his dramatic eagle at 15, putting the twosome in a dead heat for the final three holes.

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He birdied two of his first three holes, and would have done so on all three had he not missed a five-foot birdie putt on the par-5 second hole.

"It's been an incredible week", Garcia said, "and I'm going to enjoy it for the rest of my life". "It's a course you can get to know and be competitive here for a long, long time". You've got to put yourself out there. His winning putt curled in and relief and joy ensued. "I loved it out there".

You couldn't quite tell if they were pulling for England's Justin Rose, who has a U.S. Open title on his resume, or the Spaniard who once was easy to pull against.

He has finished a runner-up on four occasions, twice at the (British) Open and twice at the PGA Championship, with a further six top five finishes without breaking through.

Garcia, who has been plagued by self doubt when it came to majors, once said he did not have what it takes to be a major champion but demonstrated on Sunday during an enthralling rollercoaster battle with Rose that he does indeed possess the tools, demeanour and determination of a champion.

"We have a great friendship and a good rivalry".