Masters win on Ballesteros' birthday special – Garcia
Wearing the coveted green jacket, the 2017 Masters winner looked up and pointed skywards in tribute to his mentor.
“I think he would be proud of me,” the 37-year-old Garcia told CNN Sport.
The Spaniard had ended his 18-year wait for a major since turning professional on what would have been the 60th birthday of five-time major winner Ballesteros, who died in 2011.
“We’d probably have a little glass of wine together,” said Garcia, the third Spaniard to win at Augusta, following Ballesteros’s breakthrough win for Europe in 1980 and again in 1983 and Jose Maria Olazabal’s victories in 1994 and 1999.
“It was special to do it on what would have been his 60th birthday, on a place that I know was so special for him and for Jose Maria and now, also, for me. So I’m glad I got to do it and now we can enjoy it.”
Olazabal message ‘touched my heart’
The world No. 11 beat Ryder Cup teammate Justin Rose in a playoff to win his maiden major at his 74th attempt. No major winner has had to wait so long.
Garcia told reporters a “special” message from Olazabal before the tournament had helped inspire him.
“Jose sent me a text on Wednesday night telling me how much he believed in me. And what I needed to do, believe in myself, to be calm and not let things get to me that I’ve done in the past,” added Garcia, who made his Masters debut as an amateur in 1999, the year of Olazabal’s second win.
“Jose María’s message was very special because he’s my idol. He’s one — him and Seve are both my golfing idols since I was very, very little.
“Obviously he did mention a couple of things that touched my heart a little bit. He said, ‘I’m not sharing my Augusta locker at the moment, and I hope that I get to do it with you.’
“He’s a great man and we’ve had a great relationship for many, many years. To be able to join him and Seve as Masters champions from Spain, it’s unbelievable.”
‘An amazing day’
Garcia, who shared the overnight lead with Rose going into the final round, said he felt calm throughout the day.
“It allowed me to have clear thoughts in my head, it allowed me to swing a little bit more freely, it allowed me to create things, which I was able to do pretty much throughout the whole day,” he told CNN Sport.
The Spaniard, who five years ago said he was not good enough to win a major after falling out of contention after a poor third round at Augusta, beat Rose with a birdie at the first extra hole — the 18th — of a sudden-death playoff.
Both players had finished on nine under par after 72 holes.
“It was an amazing day. It was a joy to be out there, playing with Justin and both playing well and going at each other. So, it was a thrill,” Garcia added.
“I could feel the energy from the crowd.
“It felt like everybody was just so looking forward to that moment, not only myself and my whole group, my whole team, but everybody around that green. It felt like they were just waiting for that to happen.”
‘A wonderful battle’
Prior to Sunday’s victory, Garcia had recorded 22 top-10 finishes in majors, including four second places — at the Open in 2007 and 2014, and at the US PGA Championship in 1999 and 2008.
Rose, the 2013 US Open champion and Olympic gold medalist, was magnanimous in defeat.
“It was a wonderful battle and if there is anyone you want to lose to it’s Sergio. He deserves it, he’s had his fair share of heartache,” Rose told reporters.
“This is a tournament I am going to win one day. I’ve been in the last group a couple of times and shot 14 under when Jordan (Spieth) won.
“I feel really confident here, this my favorite tournament of the year. I still have a bunch of good years in me and feel this is one I can still knock off.”
Players pay tribute to Garcia
Tiger Woods, a four-time winner at Augusta and a man whose rivalry with Garcia has often been heated, tweeted his congratulations to the Spaniard.
The American was one of many golfers to pay tribute on social media. Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson messaged Garcia, while Ballesteros’ son, Javier, tweeted: “Come on. Big Sergio.”