Garcia wins Masters in playoff for first major title

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Sergio Garcia of Spain birdied the first hole in a sudden-death playoff to outlast Justin Rose of England and win the Masters on Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., breaking his 0-for-73 drought in major tournaments.

Both players missed birdie putts — Rose’s was from 10 feet while Garcia’s was from 5 feet — on the 18th hole to push the tournament into a sudden-death playoff tied at 9-under-par 279.

The players returned to the 18th tee for the first playoff hole. Rose’s drive found the pine straw under a tree and he had to punch out, with his ball ending up just a few yards in front of Garcia’s tee shot. Garcia ripped his approach to 10 feet before Rose found the green on his third shot well outside the Spaniard’s ball, meaning he would have to putt first.

Rose missed, and Garcia calmly rolled in a 12-foot putt for the win, breaking down in tears and pounding the green with his right fist as the crowd chanted his name.

Both players shot 3-under-par 69s on Sunday before heading into the playoff.

Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open winner, took the lead when he birdied the par-3 16th via a 10-foot putt after which Garcia missed a quick left-to-right breaker from half that distance. Then the duo was tied again when Garcia parred and Rose bogeyed the par-4 17th after hitting his approach shot into the bunker short of the green.

Charl Schwartzel of South Africa finished alone in third at 282 after a final-round 68, while Matt Kuchar (67 on Sunday) and Thomas Pieters (68) of Belgium were tied for fourth at 283. Kuchar had a hole-in-one on the 16th hole. England’s Paul Casey (68) ended up a solo sixth at 284, and Kevin Chappell (68) and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (69) tied for seventh at 285.

There was never a charge from the pack — 67s by Kuchar and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama were the low rounds — which allowed Rose and Garcia to focus on each other and the difficulty of the golf course.

Rose and Garcia began the final round tied for the lead at 6 under but the Spaniard, playing in his 74th major event and still looking for his first win, quickly moved to a three-shot lead thanks to birdies on the par-4 first hole and the par-4 third and Rose’s bogey on the par-4 fifth.

Rose turned things around with three straight birdies on the par-3 sixth, the par-4 seventh and the par-5 eighth holes, and the two players hit the back nine tied at 8 under.

Garcia came unraveled on the downhill par-4 10th, popping up his tee shot before slashing his long approach shot long and right of the green in the bushes on the way to a bogey. He dropped another shot on the par-4 11th when he drove his ball into the woods to the left of the fairway and couldn’t fashion a par; Rose walked off the 11th green with a two-shot lead.

After both players parred the par-3 12th and Garcia looked as if he was doomed when he hit his drive into the trees to the left of the fairway and Rae’s Creek on the par-5 13th. He was forced to take a drop and assume a penalty stroke but pitched onto the three with his fourth shot and made the putt for par.

Garcia got a stroke back with a brilliant birdie on the par-4 14th and poured in a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 15th when his approach landed a foot from the hole and clipped the flagstick. His ensuing putt just dropped into the hole on its final half of a roll and gave him a one-stroke lead, temporarily. Rose promptly holed a four-foot birdie putt to also get to 9 under and set up what would be a three-hole match for the title.

Garcia (71-69-70-69) and Rose (71-72-67-69) were the only golfers to play all four rounds this week at par or under.

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