Masters 2017: Stars align for Garcia in victory

  • Ray Cox
  • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
8:56 p.m Sunday, April 9, 2017 Golf
Sergio Garcia reacts to an eagle on the 15th hole, putting him at 9-under. He then won with a birdie on the playoff on the first extra hole. BRANT SANDERLIN / SPECIAL

The stars couldn’t have aligned any better for Sergio Garcia’s first major title.

Sunday would have been the late two-time champ Seve Ballesteros’ 60th birthday. Ballesteros took a young Garcia under his wing 20 years ago and some of Garcia’s best golf moments have been with Ballesteros in the Ryder Cup.

Garcia appeared to change momentum with an eagle at No. 15. The last time a Masters champ had a back-nine eagle on Sunday was Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal in 1994.

Garcia had also arrived at Augusta to find that his caddie’s bib number was 89, the same as 2016 champion Danny Willett’s a year ago and the same as Jack Nicklaus’ in his famous 1986 sixth Masters title.

“It’s amazing,” Garcia said in his first post-round interview on CBS. “To do it on his 60th birthday and to join him and Olazabal, my two idols in golf my whole life, it’s something amazing. Jose sent me a text on Wednesday night telling me how much he believed in me. And what I needed to do. And just pretty much believe in myself. And being calm and not letting things get to me that I’ve done in the past.”

Three times a Spanish golfer has led or been tied for the lead after 54 holes at Augusta National and all three times they won the title. Garcia won on the first extra hole of a playoff against Justin Rose.

1980; Seve Ballesteros; 72;

1999; J.M. Olazabal; 71;

2017; Sergio Garcia; 69;

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Sergio Garcia has won his first Masters title. Beating Justin Rose in a playoff for the 1st major title of Garcia’s career.

Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick, who finished 4-over 292 and in 32nd place, is looking for a home and golf club in the Atlanta area.

Fitzpatrick is moving to the city because his girlfriend, Lydia Cassada, is likely to get a job here.

Fitzpatrick, 22,said that there are so many nice golf courses in the area that he’ll affiliate himself with whichever one will have him.

“I’m going to take my time on it all and try to figure it out,” he said.

Fitzpatrick, a native of Sheffield, England, said he might also become a fan of Atlanta United, but it would be hard to leave his favorite club, Sheffield United.

Fred Couples, 57, got off to a great start but stumbled in, shooting 72-289 and finished tied for for18.

“So I got it going (on the front nine in 33) and the back nine is just really a hard nine,” he said. “I don’t play 13 and 15 particularly well. Everyone thinks you should birdie them. And I three-putted 16 four straight days in a row and maybe one of them was a tough putt. The other ones I’ve had every year. So that’s kind of hard to swallow, four bogeys there and you’re on the green. Other than that, I had a good time.”

The other two Champions Tour players who made the cut were 1987 Masters champ Larry Mize (Georgia Tech) and Steve Stricker, who just turned 50 a few weeks ago. Stricker shot 68 on Sunday and finished tied for 16th, a great conclusion after a second and a third-place tie in his first two Champions Tour starts.

Georgia had the most alums in the field with four, two of therm making the cut. Georgia Tech had three, two making the cut. How they finished:

Georgia

-Russell Henley-69-287-T11

-Kevin Kisner-73-296-T43

Georgia Tech

-Matt Kuchar-67-283-T4

-Larry Mize-76-305-52

“It’s one of those places, when everything’s going your way, you love it; and when they’re not working out, you want to take your ball and go home.” — Former UGA golfer Kevin Kisner on Augusta National.

How have the the champions’ winnings progressed through the years? An aside: 50th place this year is $27,720 or $7,720 more than Nicklaus won for the title in 1963.

1934; $1,500; Horton Smith;

1946; $2,500; Herman Keiser;

1958; $11,250; Arnold Palmer;

1963; $20,000; Jack Nicklaus;

1974; $35,000; Gary Player;

1986; $144,000; Jack Nicklaus;

1997; $486,000; Tiger Woods;

2004; $1,170,000; Phil Mickelson;

2013; $1,440,000; Adam Scott;

2016; $1,800,000; Danny Willett;

2017: $1,980,000; Sergio Garcia;

-117th U.S. Open:Erin Hills, Erin, Wis., June 15-18

-146th British Open:Royal Birkdale, Southport, England, July 20-23

-99th PGA Championship:Quail Hollow Country Club, Charlotte, N.C., Aug. 10-13

-Tour Championship:East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta, Sept. 21-24

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