AUGUSTA, Georgia — In his knees and his legs and in his uncontrollable bend at his waist was everything from the past two decades, self-doubt and self-loathing and all the pain both can bring. Sergio Garcia has been — pick a phrase because over the years we have used them all — star-crossed and whiny, unlucky and unsure, talented and tortured. Each applies.

But Sunday night, so much of his life changed. Think that’s an overstatement? Fine. But Augusta National once owned him to the point of dejection. Major championships once caused him so much frustration that he publicly declared he could not and would not win one.

So to watch a downhill birdie putt at the 18th green, in a playoff against Englishman Justin Rose, curl into the bottom of the hole, doubling over was the only option — though labeling it an “option” implies he was even in control of his body. How could he be? After all this time, how could he be?

That putt, on the first extra hole of the 81st Masters, beat Rose, who joined him in shooting a 69 in the final round. But it also beat back all the labels that threatened to follow Garcia to the grave — that notion that his unfulfilled potential made him a disappointment, that he lost the verve and joy that once defined him, that in the largest moments, he came up small.

The theme of this week, then, was Garcia’s transformation — a theme that was easy to buy given how he spoke of this place, a place that once drove him stark-raving mad but that he said, more than once, he had learned to “accept.” Yet that story line wouldn’t work if he hadn’t finished it off.

That he did took some doing, and don’t think the fashion in which Garcia won is irrelevant. It matters because he fought when he might have folded. It matters because he looked forward instead of behind. All of that helped get Garcia and Rose to the 72nd tee, tied at 9 under par. And the specifics of how they got there also will be worthy of review.

Remember, when discussing the playoff and what preceded it, the entirety of the round. When Rose bogeyed the fifth hole, Garcia held a three-shot lead — an enormous advantage, though with far too much golf to play. By the time they made the turn, they were in a flat-footed tie — and then Garcia bogeyed both 10 and 11. That’s a five-shot swing in six holes. Garcia’s fade was in full form.

By that point, he wasn’t alone. What easily could have been considered the sexiest group — Jordan Spieth, the 2015 champion, and Rickie Fowler, the orange-clad talent seeking his first major — fell surprisingly flat. Spieth hadn’t finished worse than tied for second here in three Masters, but he hit another ball in the water at the par-3 12th en route to 75. Fowler is approaching Garcia’s old status — transforming from a player on the rise to one who will feel pressure to win a major — after a 76 left him tied for 11th with Spieth and others at 1 under.

“Fortunately,” Spieth said, “I get to come back for another 50 years.”

There was room for a bubble up from a player or two — Thomas Pieters with four straight birdies to get to 6 under before he made bogey at a birdie hole, the 16th. Charl Schwartzel, the South African who won here in 2011, with a bomb of a birdie putt at the 18th to finish off a 68 that got him to 6 under.

But really, for hours, this was match play. And like the best in Ryder Cup history, it pivoted time and again.

So when you speak of this match, don’t forget Garcia, trailing by two at the 13th tee, inexplicably trying to draw one around the corner and nestling beneath an azalea bush, left of the stream. This was jail, and Garcia had to pick up his ball and drop it again. Bogey seemed likely, worse was in play, and Rose stood both in the fairway and in control.

But a key to the match was what happened over the next 10 minutes: Garcia punched his third shot down in front of the green, then coldly got up and down for par, the save of his life. Rose then had five feet for birdie and a three-shot lead — and missed. They both made 5. Yet somehow the momentum seemed to be Garcia’s.

“Even though it was a par,” Garcia said, “it kind of made me more confident.”

That notion was reinforced at 14, where Garcia made birdie, and 15, where Garcia — who routinely out-drove Rose by 40 and 50 yards, absolute missiles — hit a monstrous tee shot, then drilled his approach from 177 yards toward the green. On one hop, the shot hit the flagstick and settled some 18 feet away. That was 18 feet for eagle. When he holed it and he gave a knock-out of a fist pump afterward, he held the lead at 9 under. Rose punched back with a birdie of his own to tie, and it was on.

There remained quibbles, moments that the loser surely would lose sleep over. When Rose birdied the par-3 16th, Garcia had a shorter putt to match him — and made his worst stroke of the day. When Rose had a six-foot par-saver at 17, he pushed it slightly — the bogey that left them tied again headed to the 72nd tee.

And then, after two smoked drives at 18, two putts: Rose from eight feet to the right of the pin, which slid by. Garcia, then, for the win, from five feet above the hole.

“I hit the putt exactly where I wanted,” Garcia said. Except for one thing: It didn’t go in.

So they went back to 18 again for the playoff. And here, for once in a career that spanned 73 winless majors, Garcia gained a clear and obvious advantage. Rose played first and pummeled his drive into the trees to the right of the fairway. The ball trickled out into the pinestraw, but he could do nothing but punch it forward to get a shot at the green.

Garcia played two clean shots, and when Rose missed his par putt, he needed just to get down in two. Here, though, he needed just one.

It didn’t matter whether he won with a birdie or a bogey. It just mattered that he won.

“It’s been such a long time coming,” Garcia said.

That’s why so much of the moment was about more than the moment. The decades, the losses, the disappointments — they all just rush up, available at the fingertips. Had Garcia matched the promise he showed as a 19-year-old, when he was a buoyant boy bouncing around the fairways as he chased Tiger Woods in the 1999 PGA Championship, Sunday certainly wouldn’t have been as poignant. That tournament, even now, is important because it cast what Garcia was supposed to be — all fun and enthusiasm, potential that surely would be fulfilled — against what he became, which seemed, at times, downright surly.

By Sunday night, though, he was nothing but smiling. After he blew a kiss to the gallery, he bent over again, kneeled down and punched the green with his right fist.

At one point in his career, he might have tried to knock Augusta National out. This was a loving tap. It was that way because his life is changed. He is a major champion.

“I’m going to enjoy it for the rest of my life,” he said.