AUGUSTA, Ga. — As soon as the putt slipped past the cup on the first playoff hole, Justin Rose knew it was over.
He took off his cap and stood to the side of the green, resigned to his fate. Not two hours earlier, it looked like the Masters was his.
Now all Rose could do was watch as Sergio Garcia curled in a 12-foot birdie to finish a dramatic duel at Augusta National.
“It was a wonderful battle with Sergio,” Rose said Sunday night. “I just needed one or two putts coming in.”
He grimaced a bit, no doubt remembering the 6-footer that skidded by the cup on No. 13, when he had a chance to put Garcia away after Garcia drove a ball under an azalea bush.
Or perhaps he was thinking of the 7-footer at the 17th, the one he just didn’t hit hard enough, resulting in a bogey that sent him to the 72nd hole tied with Garcia.
And he’ll never forget that final hole of regulation, his first crack at No. 18, where another 7-footer burned the edge of the cup. It really stung when Garcia missed an even shorter putt.
But Rose isn’t going to beat himself up too much.
“I would say this one probably is one that slipped by, for sure,” said Rose, a 36-year-old Englishman. “I can’t pick holes in my performance. I felt fantastic out there. I felt cool, calm and collected.”
In the end, it wasn’t enough.
Garcia, generally recognized as the best player never to win a major, finally removed that stigma against someone who knew a bit about how that felt before his breakthrough victory at the 2013 U.S. Open.
“If there’s anyone I had to lose to, it’s Sergio,” Rose said. “He’s had his fair share of heartbreak.”
Rose seemed genuinely happy for a player he considers a rival and a friend. The playoff was a bit anticlimactic, pretty much decided when Rose drove behind a towering magnolia tree right of the fairway, forcing him to punch out and hope he could somehow make par.
He had a shot, hitting his approach to about 14 feet. But the putt missed to the right and Garcia made it a moot point by rolling in his birdie.
As soon as it was over, Rose walked out to embrace Garcia in the middle of the green.
Rose said a few words, patted the new Masters champion on the chest and walked away, leaving Garcia to bask in a moment he chased for nearly two decades.
“It’s always nice to be a part of history,” Rose said. “I would have liked to be on the right part of it.”
Rose and Garcia started out tied for the lead. Garcia quickly pulled ahead by three shots, thanks to his two birdies and a bogey by Rose, but Rose erased that deficit before the turn with three straight birdies.
At that point it was apparent this would be a two-man race.
It looked like Rose might win going away when Garcia’s swing turned wobbly on the back side. Garcia had bogeys at 10 and 11, and his errant drive at the par-5 13th forced him to take a one-stroke penalty, putting Rose in position to build a commanding lead. It didn’t happen.
“It’s going to sting for sure,” Rose said. “But you know, I really feel like this is a tournament that I can still go on to win. I’d like to win three or four.”