Plenty of drama on Sunday at the Masters

Published 4:52 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What a spectacular finish.

Sunday evening, I was sitting cross-cross applesauce on the floor in front of my TV watching Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose duel through the final holes at Augusta National.

I would like to be clear: I was rooting for Sergio. The 2017 Masters was his 74th major, and he hadn’t won a single one of them. Sergio being such an emotional guy, I knew if he won, it would be a fun sight to behold.

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Also, I could not bear the sight of an Englishman winning the Masters in back-to-back years.

So when Justin Rose missed his par putt on No. 17 and bogied to tie at 9-under with Sergio, it was game on. I got chills as I heard the roar of the crowd at the green on No. 18 when the scoreboard showed the final pairing was tied. Even if you’re not specifically cheering for either guy, seeing the greatest golf tournament in the world come down to the wire at the end would be a treat.

Both Rose and Garcia hit the fairway on No. 18. Rose’s approach shot hit a small ridge to the right of the green and bounced toward the hole, rolling within eight feet. The crowd goes nuts. That was a lucky bounce and set up a great look at birdie.

Garcia’s approach shot was even better. It was a dead-on shot at the flag pole, and landed within five feet. The crowd gets even more amped. I’m in my living room fist pumping like I made the shot myself.

Rose takes a good, long look at his putt. The announcers repeat over and over: it’s a straight shot. No break. No curve. Just hit it at the hole. All Rose had to worry about was his speed. Well dang, he had the speed right, and he just about had the path right. But wouldn’t you know it, the ball tiptoes past the cup and doesn’t drop. Rose’s face said it all. Pure disbelief.

Now Sergio had a chance to win it all. He takes even more time to look at the putt. Again, the announcers make clear that this thing has no break. Hit it straight, Sergio!

The ball came off the face of the putter, and I knew instantly he hit it right. Way right. Where Rose’s face was disbelief, Sergio’s was raw frustration. Teeth gritted and face snarled, he jerks back to look at this caddie, searching for an explanation why the ball didn’t drop.

Both players par the hole. It’s playoff time. Hey, free golf is free golf. I was just excited to see a little drama on a Masters Sunday. Last year had the Spieth incident. This year couldn’t skate by without something else happening.

The first playoff hole is No. 18. Rose draws from the hat and tees off first. The ball goes right, and it’s definitely reason for concern. He finds the pine straw. Sergio’s drive hits the fairway, just like last time. Beautiful.

Rose, probably sweating so much he’s worried the club will swing out of his hand, takes a shot to get out of the mess he’s in. He punches it out of the pine straw, sending the ball rolling up toward the front bunker. Already with the advantage, Sergio takes his approach shot.

It’s even better than before. The ball lands in a similar spot and the crowd erupts. Rose gets the ball on the green and misses his putt. Sergio, with the Masters on the line, makes it.

I loved watching his reaction when the ball curled around the lip and fell in the hole. The rush of happiness he got as he collapsed to the ground was a great sight, his backdrop hundreds of spectators with their hands in the air cheering and clapping. The shot of his fiancé in the background was another cool angle. You can see the anxiety on her face as the ball comes off the club, and the joy on her face as it drops.

My prediction for Rickie Fowler to win as the dark horse fell flat. I was told by a lot of people that Rickie isn’t really a dark horse for a tournament like the Masters.

Well, his performance on Saturday and Sunday is why I consider him to be one. He can start off so hot, but never seems to close. About once or twice a year he can finish strong.

I’m already looking forward to the next major, the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. Can Dustin Johnson swing back from his back injury and defend his title? Will Fowler win a major?

We’ll see.