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Sunday 30 April 2017

Garcia has made his first major step

Sergio Garcia holds his trophy at the green jacket ceremony. Photo: AP
Sergio Garcia holds his trophy at the green jacket ceremony. Photo: AP

Sergio Garcia believes he can win more of golf's biggest prizes after finally claiming his first major title at the 74th attempt in an unforgettable Masters.

Garcia was playing his 71st consecutive major at Augusta National, a streak stretching back to the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie.

A month later he finished second to Tiger Woods in the US PGA Championship at the age of 19, but had since recorded a further 21 top-10 finishes without tasting success.

All that changed in dramatic fashion on Sunday when he came out on top in a thrilling final-round duel with Justin Rose, a birdie on the first play-off hole making Garcia the third Spanish winner of the Masters - and on what would have been the 60th birthday of two-time champion Seve Ballesteros for good measure.

Having claimed in 2012 he was not good enough to win a major, a more positive attitude has been key to Garcia's success and the 37-year-old is due to marry fiancee Angela Akins in July.

"Everybody that is around me is helping me, making me not only a better golfer but a better person," Garcia said. "It's not easy, because I know how much of a hard-headed man I can be sometimes, but it's been great.

"And for me, the most positive thing is that I feel like I have so much room for improvement. Obviously I'm 37. I'm not 22 or 25 any more, but I feel I still have a lot of great years in me and I'm excited for those."

Much was made of the connection to Ballesteros throughout the week, but Garcia highlighted the influence of another Spanish two-time Masters champion, Jose Maria Olazabal.

Olazabal sent Garcia a message on the eve of the tournament with words of advice and encouragement, as well as a special request for some company in the small Champions Locker Room at Augusta.

"Jose Maria's note was very special because he's my idol," Garcia said.

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