Sergio Garcia delighted his many fans at Doha Golf Club by winning the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters on his eighth straight attempt, securing the title with a birdie on the third hole of a playoff with Mikko Ilonen of Finland.
Garcia, who started the day three shots behind the leaders, shot a bogey-free seven-under-par 65 to post the clubhouse lead with a 16-under total of 272, which was matched by Ilonen with a 66.
After both players birdied the shortened par-five 18th twice in succession, Ilonen hit his second shot into a greenside bunker on the third playoff hole before Garcia put his approach to about 40 foot from the flag.
Ilonen hit his bunker shot to 20 feet before Garcia applied the pressure by rolling his long eagle putt to the edge of the hole.
The Finn needed to hole his birdie putt, but after missing it left, Garcia tapped in and the 34-year-old Spaniard shook his fist in delight at the large crowds surrounding the 18th green.
“I’m thrilled to finally be able to win here. We’ve been close several times, so it feels great to finally get through the finish line and go home with the trophy,” said Garcia, who last year finished joint runner-up for his sixth top-10 finish in Doha in seven years.
“It’s a place I’ve been coming for a while now and that I’ve always enjoyed playing. I’ve been coming here for eight straight years, so the crowd are used to seeing me, which is nice.
“That always makes you feel comfortable. The crowd really made me feel that and hopefully they felt the same way. It was an exciting finish and you could see the crowd also got excited.”
One of the world’s best-known and most popular players, Garcia was all smiles as he lifted the Mother of Pearl Trophy, collected the US$416,660winner’s cheque and moved to second place in The Race to Dubai after his 11th European Tour victory and first since in October 2011.
Garcia won on the PGA Tour in the USA as recently as 2012 and finished a steady 2013 campaign with an Asian Tour win in Thailand last month. He now hopes his Doha triumph will act as a springboard for continuing success.
“I hope this is the start of an amazing year. Last year, we had a lot of close calls, starting here, so I’m very excited to be able to get my hands on this beautiful trophy – this beautiful and heavy trophy,” he smiled.
“It's great to kind of set up my year a little bit, to win again on The European Tour,” said Garcia, who made his first appearance in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in its second edition in 1999, when he was only 19 and went on to play the first of his six Ryder Cups.
Ilonen was still pleased with his week’s work despite tasting defeat in the first playoff of his career.
“I played good golf this week, so I can’t be too disappointed. I gave it my best shot, but Sergio was a bit better this time. There’s no shame in losing to a great player like him.”
Garcia’s compatriot Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who led after the second and third rounds, finished in a tie for third on 15-under alongside Thorbjørn Olesen after the pair carded respective rounds of 69 and 68.
Garcia is the second Spaniard to win the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, following Alvaro Quiros in 2009, and is the 15th different winner in 17 stagings, with Adam Scott and Paul Lawrie winning twice.