Sergio Garcia holds the Masters Championship Trophy
Sergio Garcia holds the Masters Championship Trophy TANNEN MAURY

Garcia dedicates magical Masters win to childhood idol

GOLF: Sergio Garcia had to wait until his 74th attempt to win his first major title, but it couldn't have come on a more special day - the birthday of his golfing hero, Severiano Ballesteros.

Garcia first played at Augusta as an amateur in 1999, just before turning professional. It was the same year he claimed the Low Amateur title as countryman José María Olazábal wore the Green Jacket for the second time.

With a keen eye on Garcia in '99 was Ballesteros, who took the young Spaniard under his wing and developed a strong friendship with him in the years thereafter.

Ballesteros tragically died aged 54 in 2011 after a long battle with brain cancer, but on Sunday at Augusta National the two-time Masters champion was not forgotten. It would have been Ballesteros' 60th birthday.

"It's amazing to do it on his 60th birthday and to join him and Olazábal, my two idols in golf my whole life, it's something amazing," Garcia said, accepting his Green Jacket in Butler Cabin.

"Jose sent me a text on Wednesday night telling me how much he believed in me and what I needed to do, and just pretty much believe in myself and to be calm and not let things get to me like I have in the past."

Garcia was long dubbed 'the best player to never to have won a major' throughout his career spanning almost two decades. He ended the drought in style though, defeating Englishman Justin Rose in a playoff.


Sergio Garcia, of Spain, reacts after making his birdie putt on the 18th green to win the Masters golf tournament after a playoff Sunday, April 9, 2017, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Sergio Garcia reacts after making his birdie putt on the 18th green to win the Masters Chris Carlson

"I have seen [myself winning] it several times," Garcia said.

"When I came here in 1999 as an amateur, I felt like this course was probably going to give me at least one major. I'm not going to lie, that thought changed a bit through the years because I started feeling uncomfortable with the course.

"But I made peace with it the last three of four years and I accepted that Augusta gives and takes. And I think because of that I'm able to stand here today."

The 37-year-old had Ballesteros' son Miguel in his corner throughout the prestigious event.

"Best of luck Sergio Garcia. It would be amazing if you win The Masters on such a special date," he tweeted before Garcia's impressive final round got him the clubhouse lead at nine-under with Rose.

"Congrats Sergio Garcia. You deserve it more than anyone," Ballesteros' son said following Garcia's championship-winning birdie putt on the first playoff hole.

The Masters has a way of producing magical victories that are memorable for more than just who shot the lowest score over four rounds. And in 2017, the Masters delivered once again.