SERGIO Garcia is the 2017 Masters champion after edging out Justin Rose on an enthralling final day at Augusta National.
Close friends and long-serving Ryder Cup teammates, the pair came into Sunday tied atop the leaderboard at six under par.
Garcia looked ready to run away with it early, grabbing two birdies in the first three holes to take the outright lead as the rest of the field treaded water.
His lead grew to three shots when Rose bogeyed at the fifth, but the Englishman rallied immediately with a hat-trick of birdies to make it all square at eight-under as they hit the turn.
The scene flipped when Garcia dropped shots on 10 and 11, and Rose looked to have one arm in the Green Jacket when his rival found water from the tee at 13.
But the 2016 Olympic gold medallist failed to take advantage, missing a simple birdie opportunity after Sergio produced a miraculous scramble to save par.
From then on, momentum changed hands with the frequency of a tennis rally as the galleries were treated to some of the most gripping head-to-head golf ever seen down the stretch at Augusta.
Garcia birdied 14 and then eagled 15 after nearly holing his approach, but a wasted birdie chance from four feet at the par-three 16th allowed Rose to reclaim the outright lead.
The 2013 US Open winner was in a sporting mood, however, dropping back to nine-under after failing to get up and down from the greenside bunker at 17.
They saved some of their best till last, each finding the fairway from the tee at 18 and sticking their approaches close to set up the tensest of finishes.
Garcia had the chance to win it after his foe’s effort grazed the hole, but he played for a phantom break and so sudden death ensued.
However, it was not long before ‘El Nino’ was back in the box seat on Augusta’s famous finishing hole.
Hitting first in the playoff, Rose sprayed his drive into the pines and was forced to pitch out to safety.
Meanwhile, Garcia produced a replica of his initial effort at Holly to set up another good birdie chance.
Rose couldn’t quite save par, and this time Sergio made no mistake with the putt.
It ended a run of 73 starts in the majors without a victory – a winless streak beaten only by Lee Westwood (75) and Jay Haas (87).
Day, Johnson and McIlroy top 2017 US Open betting
Even after his glorious win at Augusta, Sergio remains a fringe tip for the 2017 US Open.
The 37-year-old is presently pegged at +2500 alongside Adam Scott and rising star Jon Rahm in the outright betting at Sportsbet.com.au, but that price could shorten significantly between now and June.
The men to beat at Erin Hills are Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy (all +800), the latter of whom came home strong on Sunday with a 69 to tie for seventh.
Next in the running is Jordan Spieth at +900, even though the Texan struggled once again on the final day at the Masters after starting only two shots behind the leaders.
Rose is a solid chance along with Henrik Stenson at +1600, just behind Japan’s +1400 prospect, Hideki Matsuyama.
The enigmatic Rickie Fowler, who started strong on Sunday before collapsing with five bogeys on the back nine, shares a +3300 quote with the likes of Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.
While the epic battle between Garcia and Rose took centre stage, there were highlights all over the course throughout the final round.
Marc Leishman holed out from the fairway for an eagle in what was a round of mixed fortunes, while Matt Kuchar aced the 16th to storm into fourth place after starting the day at one over par.
The latter is rated a +5000 chance for the US Open in an interesting bracket that includes former major winners Martin Kaymer, Louis Oosthuizen, Danny Willett and Tiger Woods.
2017 US Open outright betting
+800 – Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy
+900 – Jordan Spieth
+1400 – Hideki Matsuyama
+1600 – Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson
+2500 – Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm, Adam Scott
+3300 – Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson
+3500 – Brooks Koepka
+4000 – Branden Grace, Patrick Reed
+5000 – Martin Kaymer, Matt Kuchar, Shane Lowry, Louis Oosthuizen, Danny Willett, Tiger Woods
More quoted at Sportsbet.com.au
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