If Justin Rose had to pick a player to lose a green jacket to, it would have been Sergio Garcia. That’s exactly what Rose did on Sunday at Augusta National.
“Yeah, I would say this one is one that slipped by, for sure,” said Rose, a 36-year-old Englishman. “I mean, I can’t pick holes in my performance. I felt fantastic out there. I felt cool, calm and collected. I’m not going to sit here and second guess one or two shots. I really stepped up. I felt great. I felt in control. Barring a great comeback from Sergio, it was mine to cruise to the house.”
Garcia made that great comeback.
Rose led by two shots at 6 p.m., but saw that disappear in a blink when Garcia eagled No. 15 to knot the score at 9-under. Garcia won on the first playoff hole after both players finished regulation at 9-under. Rose missed a seven-foot putt on the 72nd hole and then hit his tee shot on the first playoff hole well right, forcing him to punch out into the fairway. Garcia clinched the win with a 12-foot birdie putt.
“It must have been fun to watch,” Rose said.
It was and a large part of that is because of the way the two players handled the final nine holes. After Garcia made his 14-foot eagle putt on No. 15, Rose gave him an “atta boy” pat with his putter. When Rose then answered Garcia’s great tee shot on No. 16 with an even better one, Garcia slowed on the walk from the tee box to offer his hand to Rose for a low five. On the 18th hole, it was Garcia’s turn to cap a great Rose approach with an even better one, which prompted a thumbs up from Rose.
“The fact that we did separate from the field a little bit, and then trading blows there, must have been very exciting for everyone watching,” Rose said.
Rose and Garcia, the 37-year-old Spaniard, turned pro a year apart (1998 for Rose and 1999 for Garcia) and grew up in the game together.
“Sergio is obviously the best player not to have won a major no longer,” Rose said. “Anytime one of those guys gets that huge monkey off their back, I think it makes it a poignant major championship. Hopefully, people remember it fondly. It’s always a nice to be a part of history. I would have liked to be the right part of it, but nevertheless, I hope it’s a good one.”
Rose, seemingly a perennial contender at the Masters, got that monkey off his back at the 2013 U.S. Open, but hasn’t won a major championship since. He has finished in the top 10 at Augusta National for three consecutive seasons and five times overall.
“I felt pretty much in control of my game and the tournament for the most part all day, and Sergio did what he had to do to make a run and I came back at him,” Rose said. “And the last hole or two, it is what it is.”
By that point, the Augusta National crowd was firmly in Garcia’s corner, and Rose couldn’t bring himself to blame them.
“You know, it’s good for Sergio. Often he feels like he’s not supported the way he would like to be here in America, and it was encouraging to see the crowd get behind him,” Rose said. “I think that they realized that he paid his dues, and they realized that he’s been close so many times. And they probably were pulling for him to pull through on this occasion. Obviously, people felt strongly that it was his time.”
When Garcia’s winning putt dropped, Rose was the first person to embrace him.
“It was very nice,” Garcia said. “He said, ‘Nobody deserves it more than you do, I’m very happy for you, enjoy it.’ It was a great battle. He played awesome, and I played nicely, too. It was nice to be able to battle it out with him.”
It was a lot of fun to watch, too.