Garcia closes with birdie to win Sanderson Farms title

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Sergio Garcia made a tap-in birdie on the 72nd hole to win the Sanderson Farms Championship yesterday, taking his first US PGA title since capturing the 2017 Masters.

The 40-year-old Spaniard dropped his approach inside three-and-half feet and eagled the par-5 14th to match US clubhouse leader Peter Malnati, then landed an 8-iron from 171 yards just two feet from the cup at 18 and made the winning putt.

“It’s pretty sweet,” Garcia said after a smile and fist pump in celebration. “It’s great. Obviously a lot of hard work.”

Garcia fired a five-under par 67 to finish 72 holes at the Country Club of Jackson, Mississippi, on 19-under 269 and edge Malnati, who was in the clubhouse with the lead for two hours, by a stroke.

“This game is my dream job,” Malnati said. “I get to do it every day. It beats me up and it’s tough. To have a day like today, what I did out there, just felt awesome. I feel like I won the tournament.”

Sergio Garcia plays his shot on the 17th hole during the final round of the Sanderson Farms Championship. PHOTO: AFP

Garcia dedicated the victory to his father, Victor Garcia, who has seen two brothers die because of COVID-19.

“It has been tough,” Garcia said. “I lost two uncles because of COVID. It has been tough for my dad. But this one was for him.”

Garcia, who won his first US PGA title as a father, has won three times on the European Tour since capturing the green jacket but is only ranked 51st in the world.

“Keep believing. Keep working hard. Keep your mind right,” Garcia said of the keys to his victory. “I’ve also been able to find a couple things here and there that obviously have helped.

“It feels great to stand there on 18 to rip a nice draw and hit an 8-iron and make a putt.”

Malnati fired a bogey-free 63 – a career low and one off Roberto Castro’s course record – to set the score to beat at 18-under 270.

Malnati won his only PGA title at the 2015 Sanderson Farms, but he had only managed three PGA top-10s since then.

The world number 312 birdied three of the first four holes on putts from nine to 12 feet, rolled in a six-foot birdie putt at the eighth and began the back nine with three birdies in a row and another at 15.

Malnati holed a 32-foot birdie putt at the par-4 17th and left the last groups a challenge.

Malnati began the day five strokes adrift of co-leaders Garcia, J T Poston and Cameron Davis, an Australian who never recovered from three front-nine bogeys.

Garcia birdied two of the first three holes and answered bogeys at the sixth and eighth each time with birdies on the next hole, then made the eagle to match Malnati.

Garcia sought his fourth birdie of the week at 15 but found the right rough and a greenside bunker before holing a four-foot par putt, building the drama to the final hole.