It’s 18 years since Sergio Garcia announced himself as a star in international golf, first by winning the Irish Open in 1999 followed by a runner-up spot in the USPGA that year and then taking three and-a-half points in the famous Battle of Brookline Ryder Cup match.
How it has taken this long for him to win a Major championship since then prompts explanations and stories of petulance and immaturity and also some deep personal lows, which led him to say publicly five years ago he couldn’t win a Major.
But now he’s the Masters champion after winning what turned into a match-play shootout in a play-off with Justin Rose.
Eight years ago Sergio Garcia admitted that he didn’t like Augusta National - he said it was too tricky. But yesterday that was all forgotten as the 37-year-old Spaniard finally ended his drought in major championships after 71 consecutive appearances - more than any other player in world golf.
It all came down quite stunningly accurate ball striking over the closing holes when the pressure was at its highest. His duel with Justin Rose reached pretty epic proportions at times, no more exemplified than by Garcia’s 15th hole eagle where his eight iron approach hit the flag. Rose followed with a birdie and again they were tied for the lead.
And they were tied after the 18th, where Garcia missed an eight foot putt to win the Masters.
On the first hole of the play-off, Rose found trees off the tee leaving the door open for Sergio again - and this time he didn’t flinch. Garcia ended up needing two putts from 12 feet to ensure victory and he needed just one as he finished in style.
What followed was predictable burst of raw emotion as a weight was lifted off his shoulders as Garcia became the third Spanish winner of the Masters - a scenario he once could not have envisaged.
"When I came here in ’99 as an amateur I felt that this course was probably going to give me at least one Major," he said.
"I’m not going to lie; that thought changed over the years because I started to feel uncomfortable on the course, but I came to peace with it the last three or four years and I started to accept what Augusta gives and takes and because of this I am standing here."
Garcia and Rose finished on nine under, both shooting rounds of 69 to finish three clear of Charl Schwartzel with Rory McIlroy also finishing with a closing 69 to finish tied seventh on three under.
"It was quite a consistent, steady Masters for me but not quite good enough," said McIlroy. "It was a case of what could have been. I gave a good account of myself and I’ll come back next year and try again."
Afterwards Rose wasn’t in the mood to punish himself for his missed opportunity on the 17th: "I can’t pick holes in my performance. Could I have made the putt on 17? Of course I could, but I felt I really stepped up and I felt good. Barring a great comeback from Sergio it was mine to cruise to the clubhouse."