Scott bests Cabrera in playoff to win Masters
Adam Scott finished the job this time, and put an end to more than a half-century of Australian misery at the Masters.
With the two biggest putts of his career, Scott holed a 20-footer for birdie on the 18th hole of regulation that put him into a playoff with Angel Cabrera, and then won his first major championship Sunday with a 12-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole.
“We like to think we’re the best at everything. Golf is a big sport at home, and this is the one thing in golf we hadn’t been able to achieve,” Scott said. “It’s amazing that it’s my destiny to be the first Australian to win. It’s incredible.”
Scott leaned back and thrust his arms in the air after the putt dropped on the 10th hole, a celebration for all of Australia and personal redemption for himself.
It was only last summer when Scott threw away the British Open by making bogey on his last four holes to lose by one shot to Ernie Els. The 32-year-old handled that crushing defeat with dignity and pledged to finish stronger given another chance. “Next time — I’m sure there will be a next time — I can do a better job of it,” he said that day.
Scott was close to perfect, and he had to be with Cabrera delivering some brilliance of his own.
Moments after Scott made his clutch birdie on the 18th hole for a 3-under 69 to take a one-shot lead — “C’mon, Aussie!” he screamed — Cabrera answered with a 7-iron from 163 yards that plopped down 3 feet from the cup, one of the greatest shots under the circumstances. That gave him an easy birdie and a 2-under 70. They finished at 9-under 279.
They both chipped close for par on the 18th in the first playoff hole, and Cabrera’s 15-foot birdie putt on the 10th grazed the right side of the cup.
With his long putter anchored against his chest, Scott’s putt was true all the way.
Under darkening clouds — no sudden-death playoff at the Masters had ever gone more than two holes — Scott said he could barely read the putt. That’s when he called over caddie Steve Williams and asked him to take over. Williams was on the bag for 13 of Tiger Woods’ majors, and read the putt that helped Woods to the 1999 PGA Championship.
“I said, ‘Do you think it’s just more than a cup?’ He said, ‘It’s at least two cups. It’s going to break more than you think,”’ Scott said. “He was my eyes on that putt.”
“The winning putt might be the highlight putt of my career,” Williams said. “Because he asked me to read it.”
The Masters had been the only major that never had a champion use a long putter. Scott’s win means four of the last six major champions used a putter pressed against their belly or chest, a stroke that might be banned in 2016.
What mattered more to Scott was that the Masters had been the only major an Australian had never won. He was among dozens of golfers who routinely rose in the early hours of Monday morning for the telecast, only to watch a horror show. The leading character was Greg Norman, who had four good chances to win, none better than when he blew a six-shot lead on the last day to Nick Faldo in 1996.
There was also Jim Ferrier in 1952 and Bruce Crampton 20 years later. Scott and Jason Day tied for second just two years ago. Norman, though, was the face of Aussie failures at the Masters, and Scott paid him tribute in Butler Cabin before he slipped on that beautiful green jacket.
“Australia is a proud sporting nation, and this is one notch in the belt we never got,” Scott said. “It’s amazing that it came down to me today.
“But there’s one guy who inspired a nation of golfers, and that’s Greg Norman. He’s been incredible to me and all the great golfers. Part of this belongs to him.”
Reached at his home in south Florida, Norman told The Associated Press, “I’m over the moon. Sitting there watching Adam, I had a tear in my eye. That’s what it was all about. It was Adam doing it for himself, and for the country.”
Norman was so nervous watching TV that he went to the gym when the final group made the turn. He headed home for the last four holes — Day, Scott and Marc Leishman all had a chance to win — and was texting with friends as his emotions shifted with every putt.
“I can only imagine how everyone else felt when I was playing,” Norman said.
Brandt Snedeker, tied with Cabrera for the lead going into the final round, closed with a 75 and finished five shots behind.
“Any time you have a chance to win the Masters and you don’t come through — my lifelong dream — you’re going to be upset, you’re going to cry,” Snedeker said. “But I’ll get through it.”