Justin Rose cupped his hand over his mouth as a gasp echoed across the No. 18 green at Augusta National.
With a chance to break a tie with Sergio Garcia, Rose’s birdie attempt on the 72nd hole of the 81st Masters Tournament grazed the hole, but didn’t fall.
“When you come to Augusta National, that’s the putt you practice,” said Rose, who shot 69 Sunday. “I’ve been seeing it break, so I trusted the fact it was going to break and it just stayed high.”
It’s become a familiar position for Rose – being in contention on Sunday’s second nine at the Masters. This time, however, the Englishman wasn’t chasing down the leader. He was the man to catch.
With five holes to play, Rose held a two-shot lead over Garcia before the Spaniard birdied No. 14 and made eagle a hole later. However, as momentum swung to Garcia, the Olympic gold medalist remained poised.
With patrons still frenetic over Garcia’s eagle, Rose holed key birdie putts on Nos. 15 and 16 to regain the lead with two to play.
“It’s going to sting for sure,” Rose said. “I really feel like this is a tournament I can win. I’d like to win three or four green jackets, but one would be enough. I just want to win here.”
With his wardrobe addition within reach, Rose faltered on No. 17. After finding a greenside bunker, the 36-year-old failed to get up-and-down, while Garcia made par to even the tournament.
This marked Rose’s fifth top-10 finish in 12 Masters appearances, but was admittedly the toughest to swallow.
“Could I have made the putt on 17? Of course I could,” Rose said. “But I’m not going to sit here and second-guess one or two shots.”
After trading pars with Garcia on No. 18, Rose’s drive on the first playoff hole sailed right, struck a tree and led to bogey. Before carding a 5 on No. 17, Rose had made just one bogey over his previous 28 holes.
“This is the one that slipped by, for sure,” Rose said. “I mean, I can’t pick holes in my performance. I felt fantastic out there. I felt cool, calm and collected.”
Instead of faulting himself, Rose was quick to praise Garcia on his performance – especially over the final five holes.
“Barring a great comeback from Sergio, it was mine to cruise to the house,” Rose said. “But it’s not always that easy.”