The dust has settled a bit since Sunday at the Masters, so here are a few nuggets worth revisiting.
1. Rooting for Sergio
Sergio Garcia hasn't always had the best relationship with those who pay to watch him play, especially in the United States. That can be traced back, in part, to the Ryder Cup, where the Spaniard is 19-11-7 and a source of irritation in what has mostly been a frustrating competition for the Americans.
But Garcia also built a reputation for being moody and whiny, for listening too intently to those in the crowd, many of whom crossed the line of decorum. Just last month at the Honda Classic, Garcia got an earful near the 17th tee at a hospitality venue that was too close to the action and where spectators should have been ejected.
The Players Championship he lost in a playoff against Rickie Fowler two years ago was another example of where he was the subject of intense heckling.
That wasn't the case Sunday at the Masters. While fans would be booted for such behavior at Augusta National, it was impossible not to notice just how much Garcia had become the fan favorite as he played the back nine with Justin Rose and later captured his first major title in a sudden-death playoff.
"It's good for Sergio," Rose said. "You know, often he feels like he's not supported the way he would like to be here in America, and it was encouraging to see the crowd get behind him. I think that they realized he paid his dues, and they realize that he's been close so many times, and they probably were pulling for him to pull through on this occasion.
"I get my fair share of love and support out there on the PGA Tour in tournaments most of the time. Obviously, people felt strongly that it was his time."
2. The close calls
Nearly 18 years after he first emerged upon the scene as what was then viewed as a years-long challenger to Tiger Woods, Garcia earned his long-awaited first major title.
Here are some of the near-misses for Garcia:
• 1999 PGA Championship, Medinah: Garcia made Woods sweat for his second major title, famously hitting an eyes-closed shot from behind a tree late on the 16th hole and finishing just a shot back, setting up what was expected to be a decade-long rivalry.
• 2002 U.S. Open, Bethpage: This is where angst between Garcia and Woods began to take root, with the Spaniard suggesting Woods received preferential treatment. Woods led after every round and Garcia was paired with him on the last day, trailing by four shots. He ended up finishing fourth, six shots back, and was in the top 10 of every major that year.
• 2005 U.S. Open, Pinehurst: Garcia was just two shots back through two rounds, shot 75 and then rallied with a final-day 70 that helped him secure a backdoor tie for third, five shots back of Michael Campbell.
• 2007 Open, Carnoustie: Garcia's best chance at victory in a major prior to Sunday. He had an 8-footer for par on the final hole in regulation to win, but missed, then lost by a stroke to Padraig Harrington in 4-hole aggregate playoff. Garcia led after each of the first three rounds, taking a 3-shot advantage into the final day. He led by six over Harrington, who, despite a double bogey at the final hole, shot 67 to Garcia's 73. "I'm playing against a lot of guys out there, more than the field," Garcia said afterward.
• 2008 PGA Championship, Oakland Hills: Garcia was 3 strokes back through 54 holes and shot a final-round 68, only to be outdone again by Harrington, who shot 66 to win his third major in two years. Garcia finished two back. (Just this week, Harrington told an Irish broadcaster that Garcia was "a sore loser" in the aftermath of those defeats.)
• 2014 Open, Royal Liverpool: Garcia made a spirited run at Rory McIlroy after trailing by 7 through three rounds and was just 2 shots back with five holes to play before a bogey derailed him at the 15th hole. His birdie at 18 meant a two-shot deficit and another runner-up finish.
Rose talked after finishing second at the Masters about letting the major "slip away," but he could not have been more gracious in defeat.
— Justin Rose (@JustinRose99) April 10, 2017
4. Spieth's finish
Jordan Spieth wasn't going to contend every year, despite beginning his Masters career by finishing second, first and second. Still, after climbing back into contention Saturday and overcoming his 9 at the 15th hole on opening day, Spieth was just 2 shots back. Then he shot 75 with another Sunday tee shot finding Rae's Creek at the 12th. He termed his round "bizarre," then tried to explain that it was better than it looked.
"I wasn't doing much wrong," he said. "I felt great over the ball."
By the time he got to the par-3 12th -- where his lead vanished a year earlier -- he was already out of contention. But another ball in the water meant Spieth has never managed to par the short par 3 in any of his four Sunday rounds at Augusta National. Bizarre, indeed.
5. Trending ...
Garcia's Masters victory means we have now had six consecutive first-time major winners. Starting with the 2015 PGA Championship, the major winners have been Jason Day, Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Jimmy Walker and now Garcia. If the trend continues, how about Rickie Fowler? Hideki Matsuyama? Justin Thomas?
6. One of our favorite Masters moments
Matt Kuchar didn't win the green jacket, but he might have had the most fun at the Masters outside of Garcia. His ace on the 16th hole and the celebration afterward might have had something to do with it. He finished tied for fourth.
Top 5 Shots from the Masters
No. 2: Kuch's perfect hole in one ☝🏼 pic.twitter.com/7IAgoSHDJP
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) April 11, 2017
7. Last in ...
Russell Henley secured the last spot in the Masters field by winning the Shell Houston Open on April 2. Seven days later, he had already assured himself of being invited back for the 2018 event by finishing among the top 12 in the field, one of the invitation criteria.
Henley shot a final-round 69 to squeeze into a five-way tie for 11th. Kevin Chappell and Brooks Koepka were others in the top 12 who can rest easy about the other criteria to get back in. Same for Thomas Pieters, who qualified via the top 50 ranking and has since moved up.
Steve Stricker, 50, meanwhile, missed by a shot. He had earned his way into the Masters by finishing in the top 4 at last summer's Open.
8. Mid-Am glory
Stewart Hagestad became the first U.S. Mid-Amateur champion to qualify for the Masters through that invitation and make the cut. Augusta National has been inviting the winner of that tournament since 1989. The Mid-Am is for amateurs 25 and older and typically those players are at a disadvantage as they do not compete full time. Hagestad is a New York City financial analyst who hopes to make the U.S. Walker Cup team later this year.
9. If you're superstitious ...
In 2016, Willett won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour. Based on when he registered, his caddie was given bib No. 89 at Augusta National. He won the Masters.
In 2017, Garcia won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour. Based on when he registered, his caddie was given bib No. 89 at Augusta National. He won the Masters.
In 2018 ...? Hmm.