I THOUGHT I would revisit the epic Masters battle last year between Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose as we prepare for another trip to Augusta.
If it's as exciting as last night's climax to the Houton Open we're in for a treat. Ian Poulter holed a 20-foot birdie putt at the last then won on the first play-off hole to win the final slot in the Masters.
Last year it was great to see two Europeans fighting it out on one of the most iconic courses and at the beginning of the day it wasn’t just Garcia and Rose who were in contention.
You had good friends Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler out there playing together and when you watched both pairs it was like four guys out for a bounce game with a little edge. It was great entertainment and showed what golf is all about.
Spieth, who returned to form in Houston to finish third with my tip Emiliano Grillo, fell out of contention when he again fell foul of the par-three 12th, landing in the same water that cost him the title the previous year. He was already three over for the day and that just put paid to his title chance for another year.
His playing partne Fowler, just couldn’t get going and finished four over for the round with seven bogeys.
Meanwhile, the two Europeans were going at it toe to toe. Garcia
started off like a greyhound, birdieing the first and third to take a two-shot lead.
Despite going a further shot behind his playing partner Rose struck three birdies in a row from the sixth. And by the ninth tho two protagonists had begun to pull away
from the rest of the field.
Suddenly after the turn it began to fall apart for the Spaniard, while the Englishman was doing what he does best and played steady golf.
Garcia dropped shots at the 10th and 11th and when he hit into the trees at the par-five 13th it looked like it was over for him. But he took a drop and got his par and Rose, who was on in two and looked to be going four clear, three-putted and the whole atmosphere changed.
That par save inspired the Spaniard and he birdied the next and on the par-five 15th he hit his iron to 14 feet and sunk the putt for an eagle. Suddenly he was one ahead.
But his lead only lasted a few minutes when Rose nervelessly holed his five-footer for a birdie. Then we all knew this was going to the death.
The par-three 16th saw two great tee shots, with Garcia’s finishing eight feet from the hole. Rose’s reply was to end up four feet further away. Rose sunk his putt and the pressure was on Garcia this time but he couldn’t convert and Rose was one ahead again.
On to the 17th and this time it was Rose who made the mistake. His approach shot to the green came up short and ended up in the bunker. Garcia got his par and Rose pulled his six-foot par putt wide and they walked to the 18th green all square.
The crowds round the 18th green were going mad as they realised the fight was going to the wire. Both players lived up to the challenge and hit the fairway.
Rose was lucky with his approach shot as he hit the bank of the greenside bunker and ran on to within eight feet.
Garcia was on the green 5ft above the hole. Rose couldn’t believe it when he missed the putt and with Garcia’s looking makeable he must have thought it was was over. But Garcia misread it so we were into a play-off.
It looked like Rose had the advantage but he sliced his tee shot straight into the trees and had to chip out. Garcia then his approach shot to 10ft. Rose missed his 12ft putt for par leaving Garcia two shots for the title but he needed just one.
It was a fitting day for the Spaniard as he won on what would have been Seve Ballesteros’ 60th birthday.
Here’s hoping this Masters can be as good as last year’s and hopefully another European winner.
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