After an epic battle played out under idyllic blue skies on one of sport’s grandest stages, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose have re-written the cliché book and proved that nice guys can win.
Watching them on Sunday without knowing the context of the three previous days’ action at Augusta, one would not have guessed they were in direct competition with each other to win golf’s most prestigious title, the Masters.
For the most part, they just looked like two mates playing a round on their day off from their real job – there were frequent spoken exchanges, high-fives and jokes between the two, with no suggestion either was feeling the immense pressure.
It was refreshing to see such a showing of camaraderie and sportsmanship in one of the most individualistic sports in the world.
That makes golf sound as though it is full of selfish, obnoxious players who will do whatever it takes in order to win but, for most, that could not be further from the truth.
Take Matt Kuchar for example – after nailing a superb hole-in-one at the 16th on the final day, he decided to sign to ball and give it to a young fan, oozing class as he did so.
Indeed, most golfers in the modern game come across as decent blokes that would not look out of place if you sat next to them in a Nando’s. It is just the case that they are very, very good at their sport.
But it is those who do not come across so well on camera that tend to dominate.
Tiger Woods is a prime example. There is no questioning that he was an absolute genius with club in hand but his unwavering arrogance and numerous temper tantrums divided fans and pundits alike for much of his career.
In the modern game, Jordan Spieth carries himself in much the same vain as Wood and even Rory McIlroy comes across as ego-driven and churlish at times. But it’s exactly this that makes them so successful.
Whenever all three enter a tournament, not only do we expect them to win, they believe they will as well. They have that incredible level of self-belief in their own ability that many of us can only dream of.
That’s what makes Garcia’s win even more special. For so long he’s been golf’s nearly man, often performing well across the first few days before throwing it away in the final round. Many fans thought it would never happen and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doubted it as well.
Indeed, despite Rose giving him chance after chance to take the lead during the final few holes on Sunday, the Spaniard just could not take them, almost out of sympathy. With the chance to win at the final hole in regulation play after Rose’s putt agonisingly missed, Garcia had what looked like a simple effort to win his first major after 74 attempts, yet slid it wide of the hole.
It was interesting to see how social media reacted on the final day, with a lot of British fans rooting for Garcia over Rose, many stating he deserved to emerge victorious because he seemed genuine. Going by their reaction, there may not have been a more popular winner of any golf tournament in recent years.
Even if this is Garcia’s only major win, it is one that we will remember forever. The story could be a perfect script for a Hollywood film – a nice guy finally getting the reward he deserves after years of trying – and it will live longer in the memory than most of Woods’ wins, despite his legendary status.
If the 2017 Masters taught us anything, it’s that niceness prospers.