So often, these Masters Sunday showdowns are a collision between glory and gore. We watch with one eye opened wide with amazement, the other half-shut to avoid the bloodletting.
And so the accounts are pressed into the Masters scrapbook with both winner and tragic foil sharing the page. Every Nicklaus must have a Norman, every Faldo a Hoch, every Schwartzel and McIlroy.
This time, however, there was no need for condolences when the light ran out on a rainy fourth round at Augusta National. No need to consider failure, only to celebrate the most satisfying, honest kind of victory.
Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera engaged in a stirring game of one-upmanship Sunday, one shot falling practically on top of the other, before Scott finally won with a 12-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole.
With his first victory in a major championship, the 32-year-old Scott also became the first Australian to win the Masters.
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Afterward Scott paid homage to countryman Greg Norman, maybe the ultimate Masters foil, who suffered disappointment by the score on this pretty piece of Georgia.
“Part of this belongs to him,” Scott said.
If Australia was going to wait this long for a Masters champion, at least when it got one, there would be no ambiguity, no equivocation about how he won it.
Playing just ahead of Cabrera, Scott was tied with the 2009 Masters champion at 8 under as he looked over a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 18.
“It was a huge moment. I felt I had to seize it right there, put all the pressure on the guy down the fairway. It was my chance and I took it,” Scott said.
Scott had positioned himself with birdies on the two par 5s on the back nine, one a particularly nervy one when his approach hung up on the water’s edge at No. 13. But he saw in that putt, one that has been familiar to more than a couple Masters winners, the entire tournament.
It caught the left lip, did a neat little pirouette, then dropped to the approving roar of a water-logged gallery.
Cabrera did not quail. He was unfazed by Scott’s wild, bellowing celebration on the green — “C’mon Aussie!” Scott yelled at the top of his lungs — or the din of the gallery. From 163 yards, Cabrera swung his 7-iron and began walking to the green almost as soon as the ball left the clubface. He knew it was pure. Pure enough to settle three feet from the hole. Almost a tap-in for a playoff.
They made quite a playoff pair.
Cabrera, the Argentine called El Pato (the duck) for the way he waddles after his ball, a man as broad as a barn door. And Scott, the tall Aussie, who walks a course with an upright elegance.
Cabrera, the one who wins nothing except majors (the 2007 U.S. Open and the ’09 Masters are his only victories on U.S. soil). And Scott, the one who seemed capable of winning everything except a major.
On the first playoff hole, No. 18, both hit their drives clean and their approach shots just below the upward sloping green. Cabrera’s chip grazed the hole.
“That must have gone right over the edge of the hole. My heart was about to stop as I was standing at the side of the green thinking: Is this it, really?” Scott said. His own up-and-down was less dramatic.
On to No. 10 they went. Again both drives split the fairway. Again both approaches found the green, almost equidistant from the pin.
Cabrera was away by just a bit. His 15-foot putt was one dimple away from going in, a cruel tease.
“That’s golf. Golf gives and takes,” Cabrera said through an interpreter.
The light was almost gone. The players and the gallery were soaked to the bone. There was a now-or-let’s-come-back-Monday feel to Scott’s 12-footer. This time he called on his caddie, Tiger Woods’ old looper Steve Williams, to help him read the putt. Williams told him to play for more break than he was seeing.
“An unbelievable read,” Scott said.
Bang, Scott wins the Masters. Morning in Australia, a great celebration was undoubtedly unleashed.
We might consider other players who came and went Sunday. We might think for a moment about Jason Day’s two bogeys over the final three holes that removed him from at least playoff contention. Or of Brandt Snedeker’s missed two-footer on No. 10 that seemed to set in motion his doom.
But that would be counter to the theme of a tournament in which only the best of shots will be catalogued for the future.
As Scott’s father, Phil, told him coming off the green after the winning putt, it doesn’t get any better than this.