AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Justin Rose is fully aware of the pitfalls of his sport, that there is just one winner every week, that the defeats far outweigh the victories in a cruel game that quite often does not produce a happy ending.
Coming so close on Sunday at Augusta National does not make it any easier -- although Rose handled the aftermath of his playoff loss to Sergio Garcia at the Masters with class and grace, and he spoke of having many more chances.
Perhaps that is due, in part, to already having won a major championship at the 2013 U.S. Open. Or maybe it has something to do with the start to his professional career 19 years ago, when after finishing fourth at The Open at Royal Birkdale, he went on to miss 21 consecutive cuts.
But Rose led by 2 shots with six holes to play. He was up by 1 stroke with two left. He had a birdie putt on the 18th green that somehow stayed out and potentially could have won the tournament.
And so it was Rose taking consolation honors, while Garcia celebrated his first major championship.
"It's going to sting, for sure," Rose said.
How could it not? The Englishman who last summer won the gold medal at the first Olympic golf tournament in Rio was poised to join Ben Hogan as the only players to win major championships at Merion and Augusta National. He was set to join Danny Willett and Nick Faldo as the only players from England to win the Masters, while giving the country two green jackets in a row. And when Garcia pulled his drive and needed to take a penalty for an unplayable lie at the 13th hole, it seemed Rose was destined to win.
But Garcia rallied to hole an 8-footer for par. Rose missed a birdie putt from a shorter distance. And the game was still on.
"That little 2-shot swing there was kind of when he was back in the tournament," Rose said. "I feel like if he misses at that point, I make [mine] -- I'm four clear and I've got my eye on Thomas Pieters and Matt Kuchar instead."
But the lead remained at two, and Garcia had new life. Garcia hit laser irons shots at the 14th and 15th holes to set up a birdie and an eagle, respectively, forging a tie with three holes to go. Rose took the lead with a birdie at the 16th -- where Garcia missed from short range -- only to have Rose blink on the next hole, making a bogey to set up the final hole and playoff dramatics.
"I would say this one probably is one that slipped by," said Rose, 36, who has battled Garcia, 37, going back to their amateur days in Europe. "I can't pick holes in my performance. I felt fantastic out there. I felt cool, calm and collected. Could I have made the putt on 17? Of course I could. But for the most part, I'm not going to sit here and second-guess one or two shots. I really stepped up. I felt great. I felt in control. I felt positive. I felt confident.
"And barring a great comeback from Sergio, it was mine to cruise to the house. But it's not always that easy. At the end of the day, you're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them. You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard.
"There's a lot of pressure out there, and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there."
Rose shot 69 to match Garcia, birdieing three straight holes on the front side after a bogey at the fifth. He didn't relinquish the lead until Garcia momentarily jumped ahead of him with his eagle at the 15th, which then was matched by Rose's birdie putt. It wasn't until a wayward drive at the 18th in the playoff by Rose that Garcia had his opening.
"Masters Sunday, it's a special day," said Rose, who has seven victories on the PGA Tour and nine on the European Tour. "Being in the final group is an incredible experience. The crowd, there's a lot of energy out there. It must have been fun to watch."
It was, and a shame one golfer had to lose.
This was Rose's 13th top-10 finish in a major and eighth top 5. He has now had five top 10s at the Masters, including each of the past three years.
"I really feel like this is a tournament that I can still go on to win," Rose said. "I'd like to win three or four green jackets, but one would be enough, you know. I just want to win here. So I have plenty more looks, and I feel good about it happening.
"For me, golf is about April to September. That's where the big tournaments are. That's where the tournaments that change your career are. So this is the first one of four. I feel motivated for the summer, and I will be moving on and setting goals very quickly after this."