Aussie rules Augusta
AUGUSTA, Ga. - 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-footer for birdie on the second extra hole.
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 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a 3-under 69 to take a one-shot lead - "C'mon, Aussie!'' he screamed - Cabrera answered with an approach 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 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.
The Masters was the only major an Australian had never won, and Scott 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 Jim Ferrier in 1952, Bruce Crampton 20 years later, and Scott and Jason Day only two years ago. Norman, though, was the face of Aussie failures at the Masters, and Scott paid him tribute before he slipped on the 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.''
Scott was just as gracious in victory as he was last summer at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He and Cabrera flashed a thumbs-up to each other after their shots into the 10th hole in the playoff, and they walked off the 10th green with their arms around each other when it was over.
"Such is golf,'' Cabrera said. "Adam is a good winner.''
It was a riveting conclusion to a week filled with some awkward moments. There was the one-shot penalty called against 14-year-old Guan Tianlang that nearly kept the Chinese teen from becoming the youngest player to make the cut. There was the illegal drop by Tiger Woods, who was given a two-shot penalty over questions and confusion about why he was not disqualified for signing an incorrect card.
And at the end, there was shot-making at its finest.
Scott didn't make a bogey after the first hole, and he really didn't miss a shot the rest of the day on a rainy Sunday at Augusta.