Sergio Garcia made history Sunday in the most Sergio way possible. He found the water twice during his final round at the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship. He missed two makeable birdie putts on 17 and 18 that would have given him a win outright. Still, Garcia went into the clubhouse tied for the lead. And when Brooks Koepka, who at one time held a three-shot advantage on the back nine, drove his tee shot into the water on the first playoff hole, Sergio needed just a par to collect his first victory since 2012. He shot a two-under 68 to finish -15 for the tournament.
In doing so, Garcia tied the late great Seve Ballesteros with nine career PGA Tour wins, the most for any Spaniard. Like most any European who came of age in the 1990’s, Garcia worshiped Seve.
To end a long winless drought, to match his idol, to win again at a tournament he claimed 12 years ago, made for a special occasion.
Ninth TOUR win. Tied with Seve for most by a Spanish-born player.
Yes, it was a good Sunday for Sergio. https://t.co/RJ6aiBczDq
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 23, 2016
And yet, Garcia inspired little confidence in capturing the trophy. For as successful as he’s been in his career, he’ll always be the guy where contention stops at second place.
Sunday was no different. After early starters indicated that mid-60’s were on the cards for the final round in Texas, Garcia delivered four birdies on the front to put pressure on Koepka. But Garcia also carded two bogeys on that nine and followed up with two more on the back while he attempted to steal the tournament.
He bogeyed 10 then knocked his tee shot into the water on 11. A superb up-and-down salvaged a par there, but he wasn’t so lucky on 14 when his approach splashed. It was the same Garcia story. If there’s water on the course, he’ll find it.
In Sergio’s defense, if we were ever in an apocalypse type situation, he’s a guy we could always count on to find water.
— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) May 22, 2016
Luckily for him, Koepka—and more notably playing partner Jordan Spieth—faltered. Spieth was a mess. Every shot lacked confidence and despite the raucous support of his hometown fans, he looked miserable all day. A terrific birdie on 18 was little solace to a player who maybe is still showing the ill-effects of Augusta. He shot a 74 that looked like an 84.
Meanwhile, Koepka failed to close. He made the turn at one-under for the day only to see his round derail in the final stages. Koepka went bogey-bogey on 14 and 15, then had to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker to make par on the reachable par-5 16th.
That left the back door open for Sergio, who gladly slipped in.
It was a memorable day for Garcia as well as his cohorts from Team Europe. In Dublin, Rory McIlroy bludgeoned his way to his first ever Irish Open title with two spectacular fairway woods on 16 and 18.
The shot of a champion. https://t.co/7EpcJKAbWH
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) May 22, 2016
Even the ageless German Bernhard Langer won his sixth career PGA Champions Tour Major at the Regions Tradition.
These two have reasons to smile after yesterday.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 23, 2016
On the flip side, two of the most promising Americans collapsed in worrying fashion. It was another reminder of how much the Europeans step up their games in even years, Garcia in particular. At 36, it’s fair to wonder how good he really could have been. He also has time left, and he’s been pretty good so far.