Scott bests Cabrera in playoff to win Australia's first green jacket
After decades of frustration and numerous close calls in the Masters Tournament, Australia’s dry spell ended when Adam Scott rolled in a playoff birdie on Sunday.
Scott birdied two of his final three holes he played and beat 2009 winner Angel Cabrera on the second hole of sudden death to become the first winner from Down Under.
“It’s amazing that it’s my destiny to be the first Aussie to win. It’s incredible,” Scott said.
Scott called himself a “proud Australian” after closing out a 6-under weekend with rounds of 69-69.
Using a controversial long putter that he anchors to his body, Scott rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole, No. 10, which is becoming the place to win the Masters. Three of the past five Masters titles have been won on that hole, which is the second hole under the sudden-death format.
Australia’s Jason Day bogeyed two of his final three holes and finished with 70 to take third place, two shots out of the playoff.
Tiger Woods (70 on Sunday) and first-round co-leader Marc Leishman (72), another Aussie, tied for fourth place.
Third-round co-leader Brandt Snedeker, who shot 75, tied for sixth place with Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen (68). Spain’s Sergio Garcia (70), England’s Lee Westwood (71) and former Georgia Tech golfer Matt Kuchar (73) followed with a three-way tie for eighth place.
China’s 14-year-old Tianlang Guan, the youngest-ever Masters participant, finished 58th out of the 61 players to make the cut. Guan, the lone amateur to make the cut, shot 73-75-77-75, including a one-stroke slow-play penalty in the second round.
Helping to ease the pain of his collapse on the final holes of regulation that cost him the 2012 British Open, Scott won his ninth PGA Tour victory and first major championship. He has won eight times on the European Tour. He ran his playoff record to 2-0 while Cabrera is now 3-2.
“He’s a great person, a great player,” Cabrera said of Scott. “I get along with him. We’ve been together in Presidents Cups, and I’m happy for him. Unfortunately in playoffs, it’s one-on-one, head to head. And there’s got to be only one winner, and he was able to win.”
Scott also made it a clean sweep for majors won with anchored putting strokes, which might be outlawed starting in 2016 if the U.S Golf Association and Royal & Ancient Golf Club go through with their proposal to ban them. Keegan Bradley won with a long putter at the 2011 PGA Championship, followed by Webb Simpson in the 2012 U.S. Open and Ernie Els in the 2012 British Open.
Australians had won 15 major championships, but none at Augusta National until Sunday.
“We are a proud sporting country, and like to think we are the best at everything, like any proud sporting country,” Scott said. “Golf is a big sport at home. It may not be the biggest sport, but it’s been a sport that’s been followed with a long list of great players, and this was one thing in golf that we had not been able to achieve. … This is one notch in the belt we never got.”
Scott tipped his hat to fellow Aussie Greg Norman, a two-time major winner and four-time Masters runner-up for “inspiring a nation of golfers. He’s given me so much time, inspiration and belief. I drew on that a lot today. Part of this belongs to him.”
The winning score – 9-under 279 – was the highest since Trevor Immelman’s 280 in 2008. It was also the first since 2008 that wasn’t double digits under par, though Scott did finish 10-under if the two playoff holes were counted.
Scott had come close before in major championships, including the Masters, where he tied for second in 2011 when Charl Schwartzel birdied the final four holes to win. In the 2012 British Open, Scott bogeyed his final four holes to lose by a shot to Ernie Els.
“I know that he deserved it, and that he was going to eventually win it like he did right now,” Cabrera said of Scott’s winning a major. “It was just a matter of time.”
Four years after Cabrera won the Masters on the second hole of sudden-death over Kenny Perry, the big man was at it again, trying to top off a big spring for Argentina, which started in mid-March when Cardinal Jorge Marion Bergoglio was named Pope. The victory would have also been sweet, coming on the 90th birthday of fellow Argentine Roberto de Vicenzo, who signed an incorrect scorecard in the final round of the 1968 Masters, costing him a chance to take Bob Goalby into a playoff.
It wasn’t to be Sunday for Cabrera, but not because of any late mistakes. He birdied Nos. 16 and 18 in regulation, nearly holed out a chip on the first playoff hole, then just missed his birdie putt on the second playoff hole.
“Well, it was the type of round that I expected,” Cabrera said. “I expected to score under par today, and I did, and I was able to get into the playoff.”
After Cabrera followed Scott’s 25-foot birdie on No. 18 in regulation to force the playoff, it was back down the hill to the 18th tee for the start of the playoff. Both men’s second shots finished short of the green, leaving them chips to the traditional front-left pin position.
After Cabrera nearly chipped his shot in for birdie, Scott left his 3 feet short, made it for par and then Cabrera tapped his in.
It was on the par-4 10th hole, where Cabrera beat Kenny Perry in 2009 in their playoff.
Both hit the green on No. 10. After Cabrera barely missed his 15-footer for birdie, Scott rolled in his 12-footer for the win.
It was a disappointing day for third-round co-leader Snedeker, who had been so confident after the third round.
“It’s just a tough day,” Snedeker said. “I really actually played pretty well. The greens really messed me up. I was so used to how fast they were yesterday and I left every putt short out there today. I could not get a putt to the hole. I did not do a good job of making adjustments and I’m disappointed. I was there for one reason, to win, and I didn’t do it, and I watched Angel play great. It was very, very disappointing.”
Snedeker said he was both frustrated and upset with the outcome.
“Any time have you a chance to win the Masters and you don’t come through, my life-long dream, you’re going to be upset, you’re going to cry, you know, but I’ll get through it,” he said.
Day bogeyed Nos. 16 and 17 and just missed a birdie on No. 18.
“Pressure got to me a little bit,” said Day, who was playing in his third Masters. “It’s a little disappointing, but there’s a lot of experience that I can take into next year and hopefully I can wear one of those green jackets soon.”
Woods, who was seeking his fourth victory of the season, shot his third 70 of the tournament (to go with a 73), running his Masters win drought to eight years.
“I played well, unfortunately I just didn’t make enough putts and also missed a few shots here and there,” said Woods, who had a two-shot penalty for an illegal drop in the second round. “I certainly had an opportunity today.”
Cabrera led by three shots over Scott and Day after a front-nine 34. After Cabrera bogeyed Nos. 10 and 13 and Day made birdies on Nos. 13, 14 and 15, Day was in the lead at 9-under.
Day bogeyed No. 16 to drop back into a tie at 8-under with Scott, who birdied No. 15. Cabrera was at 7-under after making par on No. 15.
Minutes later, Cabrera made it a three-way tie at 8-under with a birdie on No. 16, just as he did in the final round of his 2009 victory.
Day dropped back with a bogey on No. 17 and parred No. 18 while Scott and Cabrera both parred No. 17 and birdied No. 18. It was the first time in Masters history that two players went into a playoff after both birdied the final hole of regulation.