Adam Scott of Australia reacts alongside caddie Steve Williams after Scott makes a birdie putt on the second sudden death playoff hole to defeat Angel Cabrera of Argentina to win the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2013 in Augusta, Ga.
Photograph by: Andrew Redington, Getty Images
Augusta, Ga. - If Adam Scott was going to break Australia’s Masters duck — what they call a shutout in the old country — he was also going to have to break The Duck, which is what they call Angel Cabrera in Argentina.
But it was duck weather. And El Pato proved a tough nut to quack.
It took them 20 holes to settle it in the gathering darkness, under cloudy skies in a steady rain, matching shot after great shot — and in the end, the difference was a curling 20-footer by Cabrera that hung on the lip, and a 12-foot Master stroke from the anchored putter of the gentle, 32-year-old Aussie with the picture-perfect swing who’s been a major championship waiting to happen.
Finally, it did.
After bogeying the last four holes to give away last summer’s Open Championship to Ernie Els, Scott stayed the course and never gave into emotion — but as it came down to crunch time Sunday in the reliably great theatre a Masters final round always seems to provide, there was no way to hide it any longer.
He holed a 25-footer at the 18th hole in regulation to shoot 69 and move ahead of Cabrera, and screamed, “Yeah! Come on, Aussie!” looking as though he were about to bust a blood vessel in joy.
“Well, it was a split-second I thought I’d won,” he said. “You never count your chickens, but that’s the putt we’ve seen so many guys make to win — O’Meara comes to mind — and it was time to step and see what I was made of.”
Then Cabrera, playing in the last group, needing the birdie to tie, stuck his approach to within three feet and holed the putt for 70 to force a playoff for the second year in a row.
They matched almost identical pars on the first extra hole, the 18th, though Cabrera’s chip just brushed the hole, or it might have ended right there. And then each had a putt for the win on No. 10. Scott’s rolled right into the centre of the cup, and if the earth shook a bit under his feet, it’s only because a nation exploded on the opposite side of the globe.
“I tried not to think about anything along those lines today,” Scott said. “The thing I did well today was just stay in that one shot, wherever I was on the golf course.
“But Australia’s a proud sporting nation and this is one notch in the belt we have never got. It could have been any one of us — Jason (Day), Marc (Leishman) or me — but there’s one man who’s inspired a nation of golfers, and that’s Greg Norman, and part of this belongs to him.”
It was a gallant effort by Cabrera, who fought his way back after a sloppy bogey at the par-five 13th with birdies at the 16th and 18th, but the 2009 champ fell a half-inch short. He had putt after putt that easily could have gone in with one roll of the ball more or less.
“You know, that’s how golf is,” he said. “I had that chip on 18 that I could have had it, but that’s golf ... I would have been happy if I had won, but (Adam) is a great person, a great player, I’ve been in the Presidents Cup with him, and he’s a great champion.”
The two competed hard, but gave one another the thumbs-up after each hit an outstanding approach into the final playoff hole, in near-darkness. Scott, whose game was resurrected when he switched to the broomstick-style putter, somehow saw the line, and nailed it.
Or rather, his caddy saw the line.
“I could hardly see the green, really, it was so dark. I don’t get Steve (Williams) to read too many but I called him over, and I said, do you think it breaks more than a cup? He said it breaks at least two cups — and I went with that, because he’s seen a lot of putts around this course (as Tiger Woods’s longtime caddy), and he was my eyes on that putt. It went in the left half of the cup. Incredible read.
“It seems a long way away from a couple years ago here (when he tied for second) and even last July (at Royal Lytham). I played 14 really good ones last time, but I played 20 pretty good ones today.”
Much of Sunday had been strangely muted around Augusta National, as players jockeyed for position, but few made inroads on the handful at the top.
For quite a time, the race seem to have come down to two Aussies, Jason Day and Scott. Cabrera had seemed to lose it after leading by two at the turn, and Day, who had a birdie-eagle kickstart to his round, was in control after birdies at 13, 14 and 15 — but just as quickly fell out of it with bogeys at 16 and 17. He had bogeyed the 17th and 18th on Saturday.
It was only the fourth time in the last 23 Masters that the champion did not play in the day’s final group.
Tiger Woods started with an outside chance, but he had very little going right early, and nothing was colder than his putter. He never got the feel of the greens, which got sticky for everyone with humidity followed by rain, and made bogeys at the fifth and seventh holes, and his chance was all but gone.
He had long eagle putts at the 13th and 15th, but neither realistic, and birdies weren’t enough by then. He shot 70 for the third time in the tournament and finished tied for fourth, four shots behind the winner, sparing the competition committee its nightmare scenario: Woods losing by just a shot or two, after being penalized two strokes for a crime he may not have committed, only talked about.
And here’s how close it was: hypothetically, if Woods’s wedge to the 15th on Friday doesn’t hit the flagstick and he makes what would have been a birdie putt of a few feet at most — so there’s no drop controversy, no double-bogey, and no two-stroke penalty to boot — he finishes nine-under-par after just a so-so week.
In the playoff.
Which just goes to show you.
Day finished alone in third, two strokes out of the playoff and two ahead of Woods and Leishman. The 54-hole co-leader, Brandt Snedeker, made too many mistakes in a closing 75 that included six bogeys, and ended tied for sixth with Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen, who closed with a 68.
Scott will go back to Australia a national hero.
“I guess when I get home I’ll find out, but we like to think we’re the best at everything like all great sporting nations do. Golf is a big sport at home, maybe not the biggest, but there’s been a list of great players, and this is one thing in the sport we haven’t been able to achieve, so it’s just incredible that it’s my destiny to be the one who does it,” he said, dedicating the win to Norman, who was so unlucky at Augusta.
“Anyone near to my age, younger or older, he was the best player in the world, an icon in Australia, and everything he did was just an inspiration as a role model — but he’s been incredibly generous to those who came after him.
“I said part of this is for him, because he’s given me so much time and inspiration and belief. And I somehow drew on that today.”
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