Sergio Garcia earned his first major title Sunday in the 81st Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.
But Justin Rose leaves Augusta believing he may have given away his second major title.
The 2013 U.S. Open champion and 2016 Olympic gold medalist had a two-shot lead with five holes to play and missed a few key putts over the final few holes that could have secured a green jacket.
“I felt pretty much in control of my game and the tournament for the most part all day,” Rose said. “I would say this one probably is one that slipped by, for sure. … Barring a great comeback from Sergio, it was mine to cruise to the house. But it's not always that easy.”
Rose and Garcia tied at 9-under 279 through 72 holes and Garcia won with a birdie on the first playoff hole – the par-4 18th.
Rose struggled to find momentum early, making par on the first four holes – one after a missed 3-foot putt – and making bogey on the fifth to fall three shots behind Garcia, who made two birdies in the first four holes.
But Rose made three consecutive birdies on holes 6-8 to tie for the lead and took a two-shot lead when Garcia bogeyed holes 10 and 11. The lead was still two shots entering the pivotal 13th hole.
Garcia was in trouble off the tee, had to take a penalty for a drop for an unplayable lie, and had to lay up on his third shot before pitching to about 7 feet. Rose had about 190 yards to the flag from the fairway but flew the green with his second shot and chipped to 5 feet. Garcia made his putt and Rose missed his, giving both pars.
“That little two‑shot swing there was kind of when he was back in the tournament. I feel like if he misses at that point and I make, I'm four clear and I've got my eye on Thomas Pieters and Matt Kuchar instead,” said Rose, referring to back-nine runs by players who would go no lower than 6 under.
Garcia tied Rose with a birdie on the 14th and eagle on the par-5 15th, which Rose birdied, and Rose regained a one-shot lead with a tee shot to 8 on the par-3 16th, catching a break when Garcia missed a 5-foot birdie putt.
Rose found a front greenside bunker on the 17th and left a 10-foot par putt short to fall back into a tie with Garcia, and both players hit quality shots into the 18th green, Rose to 10 feet and Garcia to 5.
Rose’s putt from the right of the hole grazed the right lip but stayed out, and Garcia missed his putt to set up the sudden-death playoff starting on the 18th.
Rose hit his tee shot in the playoff under trees to the right of the fairway, had to punch out, and had a slightly longer putt on the 18th green on the same line as the putt he had moments earlier. This putt broke left in front of the hole, leaving Garcia with two putts from 12 feet to win. Garcia holed the birdie putt.
“When you come to Augusta National, that's the putt you practice,” Rose said. “It is a contrary putt. It's a cup out right maybe, but it's only a cup out right with the perfect speed. Too much speed and it's not breaking. It's a subtle putt.”
Rose, 36, takes solace in the fact that he believes he’ll have more chances to win a green jacket at Augusta National.
“It's going to sting for sure. But you know, I really feel like this is a tournament that I can still go on to win,” said the Englishman. “I'd like to win three or four green jackets, but one would be enough, you know. I just want to win here. So I have plenty more looks, and I feel good about it happening.”