Having started the day as co-leaders at six-under-par, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose fought neck-and-neck throughout a hugely dramatic final day of the 81st Masters before the former won the first hole of a play-off to claim his first ever major title.
The pair swapped leadership across the day but it was a lax drive from the 18th tee from Rose that opened the door for Garcia to make birdie with a 12-foot putt to earn a maiden major victory at his 74th attempt.
Garcia opened with two birdies on first three holes to move to eight-under and claim the outright lead by two shots early on; Rose took four pars to open his round and struggled to make any moves to threaten his playing partner.
From the penultimate group, Rickie Fowler briefly moved to within one of the lead with a birdie at the third before falling back with two consecutive bogeys immediately after. There was another rocky start for Jordan Spieth whose two bogeys sandwiched a birdie on his opening three to fall to three-under.
After a poor long putt to off the green on the 5th for Rose, a bogey would drop him back five-under and open up Garcia’s lead to three shots. Rose would gain the shot right back, though, with a birdie on par three sixth after a tee shot to 10 feet.
Rose began to heat up and and sent an electric drive down the seventh fairway as Garcia found the trees. An approach to two feet gave Rose a second consecutive birdie. Garcia kept a lead, with excellent green-side bunker pitch, but the lead with now just one.
Rose’s third straight birdie on the eighth drew him level with Garcia at the top of the leaderboard with the latter unable to capitalise for a birdie from 8 feet. Pars apiece to finish the front nine set the leaders off to the back nine with three-shot leads over their closest competitor, Fowler.
The first bogey in 19 holes for Garcia to open the final nine lost him the lead he had held for the entire day as Rose earned a par to remain at eight-under. Amen Corner awaited the leaders and it claimed Garcia immediately, as his tee shot found the trees and he had to settle for bogey, and another par for Rose kept him at eight-under and his lead now two.
With four straight birdies between the 12th and 15th holes, youngster Thomas Pieters suddenly found himself at six-under-par and tied for second with Garcia. A bogey on the 16th, however, knocked the Belgian back down to tied third.
The leading pair finished Amen Corner with two pars each and Rose’s lead remained two with five holes to play. On the 14th, Garcia made his first birdie in 11 holes, as Rose took a par, to close to within one of the leader. One then became none on the 15th as Garcia’s approach ricocheted off the flag and his eagle putt crept in to move to nine-under – joined by Rose after his birdie.
Like-for-like tee shots on the 16th looked to have earned two birdies, but for Garcia’s putt sliding right from five feet and allowing Rose to move in-front at 10-under-par with only two holes left to play.
After finding the front bunker of the penultimate hole, Rose only managed a par and dropped back to nine-under where he would rejoin Garcia who made a solid par.
Nothing separated the duo as they headed to the 72nd hole; and not even the tee shot could as both split the fairway. After Rose’s approach took a lucky bounce off the right green-side bank to within 10 feet, pressure mounted on Garcia. But, under pressure, the Spaniard delivered a nine iron to inside his partner. Neither play could capitalise, though, and a play-off was in order.
Back from the 18th tee, Rose’s drive was not on the level of the first and found the right trees but Garcia was able to produce a near replica of his previous drive. Forced to chip out, Rose lost a shot to Garcia who made the green in two and from there it was plain sailing to make par and better Rose by one.
Having confessed five years ago he didn’t believe he was good enough to win a major, and with his marriage to fiancé Angela Akins coming up later in the year, Garcia will certainly hail 2017 as one of the best years of his life.