Golf: US Masters: Garcia claims amateur honours

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The Independent Online
SERGIO GARCIA led the way for Spain on the final day of the 63rd US Masters by becoming the first European to win the Silver Cup for the low amateur, writes Andy Farrell. Only two days before, Garcia had been the first British Amateur champion to make the cut at Augusta for 21 years.

Told he had won low amateur honours ahead of Tom McKnight, the man who beat the Spaniard in the semi-finals of last year's US Amateur Championship, Matt Kuchar and the South African Trevor Immelman, Garcia punched the air and said: "Yes", and added: "That's great. That's something for your first Masters. If Jose Maria [Olazabal] wins, then it will be a great thing for Spain."

Garcia, who closed with a 73 for a total of seven over, benefited in practice from advice provided by Olazabal and Seve Ballesteros. "This tournament has been great for my career," he said. "I've learned to be patient and to wait for the right time. I played well and putted better than earlier in the week. I shot a 73 but it felt like a 69."

The silverware Garcia collected in the Butler Cabin at the presentation ceremony is almost certain to be the last he receives in a remarkable amateur career. The 19-year-old is expected to have become a professional by the time he tees up in the Spanish Open in two weeks' time. "As I have said before, I will sit down with my family this week and we will discuss the situation," he explained. "I have an invitation to the Spanish Open but I don't know if I am going to play as an amateur."

The pressure of going for the honour of being low amateur did not show itself when he started his final round at six over for the tournament. Despite the rising wind, he picked up as shot at the second, but he gave that back at the fifth. He might have crcked when another shot slipped away at the seventh, but the Spaniard simply clawed that one back at the long eighth to stand at six over again.

He escaped with a par four on the 10th after hooking his drive, but he could not rescue another bad situation on the 11th and a double bogey six went on his card. But again he recovered his composure, making two on the 12th and four on the long 13th. He dropped a shot at 17, but his seven over total of 295 left him clear of McKnight, who shot 77 for 297, Kuchar, whose 78 left him on 299, and Immelmann, who finished on 305 after a 79.

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