In case you no longer believed in miracles and/or fairytale endings…
Sergio Garcia, your 2017 Masters Champion. Of all the places to win that elusive first major championship, Garcia finally overcame the “ghosts,” demons, scar tissue and most importantly, he got out of his own way and his head. His worldview and perspective changed the last few years.
The way Sergio has described his attitude and mentality on life and golf all week (and in the past year) has been very Zen-like, as if he’s been spending time in Buddhist monasteries or simply by chance his outlook has parallels with its philosophy. Or maybe he just found a really great therapist. Or perhaps it’s as simple as he said: He has great people around him who have sat him down and helped him see the light and stay in the present (easier said than done).
2017 Masters Sunday Post-Champ Musings and Ramblings, and of course, your questions (oh, and WUP Pool winners)-! https://t.co/7I0aftFOLi
— Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) April 10, 2017
But, just WOW, what a week and I know it’s so cliche and hackneyed, but time after time, we’ve seen that the Masters doesn’t start until the back nine Sunday. This year’s edition certainly didn’t lack any fireworks and served the most compelling duel at Augusta National since… oh, 2013, perhaps? But this one was felt extra special. The 2017 Masters will definitely go down in the history books as one of the most thrilling battles in the final pairing between two European stars who are also good friends, coming down the stretch in the final five holes.
Mostly, though, it will stand out because Sergio, once despised and America’s favorite villain (he was misunderstood), became embraced as the fan favorite almost overnight. It was clear the galleries at Augusta National were pulling for Sergio — which was rather befuddling given the way he’s been heckled stateside for most of his career. However, “patrons” at the Masters are always on their best behavior and honestly, if someone were to cross that line, trust me, that person would likely never step foot on those hallowed grounds ever again. I mean, never in my life did I think I’d hear anyone yell “Bababooey” at Augusta National, but it happened on the 72nd hole Sunday. I wouldn’t be surprised if that individual was escorted off the property by the Pinkerton security guards! Still, golf Twitter was crazy for Sergio.
Garcia, who became infamous for seemingly having a mental fortitude of a seven-year-old throwing a tantrum, managed to overcome several setbacks early on the back nine, then most impressive of all, he used fierce determination and genuine will to bounce back. The “big” moment that perhaps reflected Garcia’s new attitude and ability to rise to the occasion when he parred the par-5 13th — matching the 5 strokes Rose took, as well. That’s when Garcia regained the momentum from Rose. Wait, because he parred the hole that played easiest this past week? Well, thing is, Garcia’s drive went a little too far left and took an “unlucky” bounce into the bushes, forcing him to take an unplayable, so yeah, it was a pretty impressive 5.
However, the question was how he would handle that huge save and use that game-changing momentum on the following holes. He answered quickly with a birdie on 14, then an eagle on 15. The ups-and-downs and intensity and thrilling drama that unfolded was incredible theater. While Garcia misread an eight-foot putt — though he maintains he had hit that same putt that week in practice and in previous years and knew it broke left and played it right edge — for the win on the 18th in regulation.
Garcia and Rose both finished at nine-under for the tournament, forcing a sudden-death playoff. They headed back to the 18th tee. This was another big test for Garcia after missing what seemed like a pretty straightforward, very makable putt on the 72nd hole. Many felt like it was the foregone conclusion that Rose would prevail because no way could Garcia overcome that miss. I mean, it never had a chance and I actually got a text from a friend, saying, “Everyone knows that putt breaks right,” immediately after he missed it.
I was nearly hyperventilating from the all the AMAZING golf and the range of emotions that I had felt for the past four-five hours. But I believed in Sergio. We all did. We had to believe miracles do indeed happen. And Rose bogeyed the first playoff hole, the 18th, so Garcia only needed to two-putt from 14 feet for the win. He did even better. He holed it. This time there was never a question it was dropping into the cup. And the emotion and pure joy after he had at long last won his first major championship after so many close calls early in his career, starting when he was a 19-year-old amateur playing in his first Masters in 1999.
Garcia earned low amateur honors and it was extra special since his mentor Jose Maria Olazabal won his second green jacket that week. While it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Garcia was destined for multiple majors and definitely a couple of his own green jackets, the close calls and disappointing losses eventually took a toll on him. He felt defeated. He has a complicated history with Augusta National — from spitting in the cup in 2008 to his defeatist comments in 2012, saying he wasn’t good enough to win not only the Masters, but any major because if he was, he would have already.
Five years later, Sergio proved himself wrong and also had a change of heart — though he did truly believe it at the time and for at least several years. Now, 18 years since his first start at Augusta (with 2017 being his 19th at the Masters), at 37 years old, Garcia showed the same passion and fiery energy that he had as a kid. It took much, much longer than anyone would have thought, but then again, he failed to produce and he wasn’t getting any younger. It appeared like Sergio’s spirit had been destroyed and his self-belief crushed and he was too far gone to find redemption and FINALLY become a major winner.
By far, at this point, Sergio had the label of “best player without the major” and I’d say it wasn’t even close anymore. He was that guy. But it never failed that at some point at every major, every year, he would be asked *that* awkard question about “getting the monkey off his back.” Recently, he quipped that there were no moneys in response. During the Ryder Cup last fall at Hazeltine, he was constantly heckled by the countless fans, who tried to troll Garcia about his lack of major championships, asking him if he’d ever win a major or some other stinging comment that he wasn’t a major champion. Perhaps in previous years, Sergio would have snapped something prickly back, but in 2016, he took it on the chin and often quipped back with a smile, “How many majors have you played in?” Oh, snaps! Right?!
Oh, right, so I talked for a long time via Periscope and Facebook Live about a wide range of topics. I basically let the viewers steer the conversation for the most part. It was really fun and I can’t believe how long I talked for. Actually, check that, I can. I only didn’t think I had it in me because it was not only an exhausting day, but it’d been quite a tolling week, living and dying for around 10 hours a day by every shot — the week certainly didn’t lack in entertainment and star power.
Oh, cripes. I managed to write nearly 1,500 words when the plan was just to embed the Periscope! Ugh! I suck at life Ha! But it sounds like you guys enjoy these? Would you like me to do them more often? Feedback/thoughts, please? Also, I haven’t forgotten about the WUP Masters Pool winners. Thanks again for all who participated and special shout-out to everyone who donated — your continued support of WUP means the world to me.
Here’s the Facebook Live version, but I don’t have as many followers on that platform, so less interaction than Periscope and the comment structure is obviously very different.
I will write a separate post re: Pool winners and prizes tomorrow. Good night!
Congrats again, Sergio!