WE HAD SEEN THIS MOVIE before. After playing a solid opening nine of 2-under 34 that tied him for the lead with Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia faltered. He bogeyed 10. He bogeyed 11. Coming to the 13th hole at Augusta National, Garcia, the man of major sorrows, trailed Rose by 2 strokes.
But Garcia showed uncharacteristic resolve. He saved par at 13. Rose also parred.
"I knew I was playing well enough to make something happen," Garcia said in Butler Cabin about the par that saved his chance to win the Masters.
At 14, he made birdie, picking up a stroke.
Then, at 15, he hit the shot of the tournament, a towering 8-iron that never left the flag, bounced off the stick and came to rest 12 feet away.
"I hit one of the best 8-irons I've ever hit," Garcia said.
The putt barely made it to the hole, dropping in for an eagle. With three holes to play, the two Ryder Cup teammates were tied.
"We're good friends," Garcia said. "We're cheering each other on."
But make no mistake. They were also trying to beat each other. It was mano a mano.
"I felt the calmest I've ever felt on a major Sunday," Garcia said.
Both had short birdie putts at the par-3 16th. Rose made. Garcia missed. But then Rose bogeyed 17 and the two were knotted at 9 under as they approached the 18th green. Both birdie putts missed right.
"I thought I had the putt on 18," Garcia said about his 5-footer.
This time, though, Sergio Garcia didn't find a way to lose. Instead, he won it with a 10-foot birdie on the first playoff hole, the 18th, after Rose hit a drive that strayed into the trees and made bogey.
In his 74th major championship, on Seve Ballesteros' birthday, Garcia broke through. The golf world erupted and celebrated with him.
"It's been such a long time coming," Garcia said in Butler Cabin.
A few moments later, 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett put the Green Jacket on Sergio Garcia. Some people, including me, wondered if this day would ever come. Sergio is a major champion at last.