- Scott and Cabrera play out exhilarating play-off in fading light at Augusta
- Australian finds redemption after Open Championship agony
Only in tournaments with such an illustrious history and enthusiastic global coverage can the climax exhilarate in the way the 77th Masters did last night. Fast approaching the lonely embers of the night, Adam Scott prevailed in a play-off with Angel Cabrera that is sure to be etched into the memories of all who consumed it.
For Scott, the victory is littered with personal and professional triumphs. In becoming the first Australian to button up the Green Jacket, Scott marks a historic triumph for the nation who were sure to be deeply compelled back down under at around 7:45am their time. As satisfying as that would seem for Scott with the great names of Australian golf who never managed to clinch victory at Augusta, the real victory is offsetting the dark clouds that hung over his head ever since squandering a four-shot lead with four-holes to play at last year’s Open Championship at Royal Lythm and St. Anne’s.
For a long time Adam Scott seemed to occupy the most unwanted category in golf- Players with immense talent and promise who managed never to win a major- along with Sergio Garcia, Colin Montgomerie and Luke Donald. Now with this thrilling first major to add to his career achievements, there is no stopping Scott in a career which could end up as the most successful of any southern hemisphere golfer.
The concluding chapter apart, this was a Sunday not in tune to that of 12 months ago where the famous Augusta roars bellowed and provided the pulsating soundtrack to Bubba Watson’s memorable victory. There was no flurry of red from Tiger Woods, still clouded by the penalty he incurred on Saturday morning for, and no great British charge from Lee Westwood or Justin Rose who struggled to spearhead a European challenge that would have provided the first Euro winner of the Masters since Olazabal in 1999. Furthermore, the competitors seemed to struggle from the outset with the dramatic change in pace of the greens. Dampened with a consistent downpour from the heavens, the manicured surfaces of Augusta were not far away from the antithesis of the preeceding three rounds which saw fast and fiery greens bringing the cream of world golf to their knees. Tiger Woods lamented his failure to grasp this element of the conditions and attributed his 4th placed position to a poor putting display.
“It’s one of those things where this golf course was playing a little bit tricky,” he said. “We had four different green speeds out there and I couldn’t believe how slow they were the first two days. Yesterday, I couldn’t believe how fast they were. And then today, it was another different speed again.”
Cabrera looked rock-solid throughout the afternoon, splitting the fairway with trademark booming drives and displaying a steady touch on the greens which helped him complete the front nine in a bogey-free 34. However, the nerves kicked in on the 10th tee as he pushed his drive right and could not escape a bogey. He also bogeyed the reachable par-5 13th, which blackened both his scorecard and his chances of winning a second Green Jacket. Conversely, Scott opened his round with a shaky bogey at the 1st but did not deviate above par again for the remainder of the tournament. As the round went on, challengers wilted under the suffocating pressure of a major on Sunday but Scott stood tall, taking advantage of his length from the tee with a couple timely birdies on the par-5 13th and 15th to thrust himself to the fore with fellow Aussie Jason Day.
Day’s challenge was commendable, staying in touch for most of the afternoon after a dazzlingly brilliant beginning. He birdied the 1st and holed-out from the bunker on 2 to lead with Cabrera. However, as is the case with many, his young shoulders could not withstand the stern examination of Augusta but there was enough evidence to claim that he may populate many leaderboards in the coming years- one to look out for. Thorbjorn Olesen provided the most notable European surge, flying the Danish flag high in Georgia with a tied 6th placed finish, an accomplishment magnified with the fact that he started his Masters debut week with a 78- another one to look out for.
The adrenaline-fueled finale everyone hoped for came in epic fashion. With the spotlight firmly on him, Scott delivered a remarkable birdie 3 on the 18th to close out his challenge in fine style and force the same score from Cabrera who was waiting to play back in the middle of the fairway. Scott rolled in a 20-footer to thunderous acclaim from the patrons and erupted in elation as he embraced his caddie, Steve Williams. It looked like the dagger had plunged into Cabrera’s challenge. His response? Sheer mastery and skill. Ignoring the countours on the green which would have guided the ball to a convertible length of putt, Cabrera took dead aim and dispatched his approach straight at the target, with a sprinkling of side spin ensuring that it was border-line gimmie range. He duly converted and sent the two gladiators into extended battle in the shape of a sudden-death play-off.
Playing the hole in identical fashion, both Scott and Cabrera parred the first extra hole. Cabrera teased the crowd with a deliciously played pitch shot which agonizingly shaved the edge of the hole. He drew breath, wiped the sweat from his forehead and turned to his caddie, his son, with the look of a man who thought he was going to win it then and there. The second extra hole was the par-4 10th, home to Larry Mize’s incredible chip shot to win in 1987. 25 years later, it was to be Scott standing on the shadowed green with fists pumping and tears jerking. Rolling in another 20-footer after Cabrera’s went close from similar distance, Scott flew his hands up in the air in the most outstanding moment of his sporting life. Breaking the curse of the Australian golfer at Augusta and banishing the demons from last year’s Open Championship collapse, Scott embraced Steve Williams once again in elation, only this time the happiness maintained a spell longer than 120 seconds.
He then paid tribute to Norman, his childhood idol.”It was one guy who inspired a nation of golfers, and that is Greg Norman,” Scott said. “Part of this definitely belongs to him.”