AUGUSTA — The final round of the 77th Masters Tournament was too good to end in 18 holes. So Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera obliged the fans at Augusta National Golf Club and those watching around the world with some extra golf before determining a winner in the first major championship of the year.
Scott won on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff for his first major victory, having finished runner up in the 2011 Masters and more recently in the 2012 British Open.
“What an incredible day. Everything fell my way in the end, I guess, and you just never know,” Scott said after receiving the green jacket. “I just kept plugging away, and I didn’t know if it was going to happen through nine. But a good back nine here solves a lot and gives you a chance. It was just great that everything fell into place for me, and I’m just so proud of myself and everyone around me who has helped me.”
It was a well-earned win for Scott, who got the best of Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion who turned in a tremendous performance of his own. Both golfers were clutch on the back nine and took their games to another level on the last three holes as they not only battled each other, but a consistent rain as well as rapidly fading daylight.
The first time they played No. 18 Sunday, both Scott and Cabrera made clutch birdies to force the 16th playoff in Masters’ history. Scott, in the second-to-last pairing, drained a beautiful, 20-foot birdie putt and reacted strongly, feeling the green jacket within his grasp.
“I was pumped. It was a huge moment,” explained Scott, who finished 9-under (69-72-69-69–279). “That was the one, like I said, I felt I had to seize it right there. This is the chance, put all the pressure on the guy back down the fairway. You know, so I was really pumped and I felt like this was my chance and I took it.”
Cabrera cut the celebration short, for the moment. Playing in the last pairing as the co-leader after 54 holes, Cabrera drilled a perfect approach shot with a 7-iron to set up a gimmie birdie putt and a playoff.
“I got to see Angel hit an incredible shot from the scorer’s area, and then it was time to get myself ready to play some more holes,” Scott said.
They opened the playoff on No. 18, and both made par, although Cabrera’s chip from just in front of the green flirted with falling in for birdie before narrowly missing. That set the stage for a second playoff hole, No. 10, the same hole where Bubba Watson won last year’s Masters in a playoff.
History repeated itself. After Cabrera’s birdie attempt just missed hitting the edge of the hole, Scott sank a 12-foot birdie putt to become the first Australian to win the Masters.
“I’m a proud Australian and I hope this sits really well back at home,” said Scott, who was impacted by the meaning the win would have for his countrymen. “We are a proud sporting country, and like to think we are the best at everything, like any proud sporting country. But you know, 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. So it’s amazing that it’s my destiny to be the first Aussie to win, just incredible.”
Cabrera was a good sport throughout and could be seen encouraging Scott during the playoff. He was just as magnanimous in defeat.
“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,” said Cabrera, who shared what he said to Scott when he hugged him after the Australian’s winning putt. “I was happy for him; that I know that he deserved it.”
The thrilling finish helped overshadow what could’ve been remembered as the most penal Masters in history. There were issues with a slow-play penalty issued to Chinese 14-year-old Tianlang Guan and a two-stroke penalty over a incorrect drop from four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods. Guan made history as the youngest player to compete in the Masters, the youngest to make a cut in a PGA Tour event and the youngest low amateur at Augusta National. He finished in 58th place and 12-over. Woods, who was the favorite to win starting the week, notched another top-5 finish. At 5-under, he was tied for fourth with another Australian, Marc Leishman. He and Scott’s countryman Jason Day placed third at 7-under.
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.