AUGUSTA, Ga. — Adam Scott ended decades of Australian disappointment on Sunday when he became the first player from his country to win the Masters with a gripping playoff victory over Angel Cabrera at a rain-soaked Augusta National.
Scott sealed the win with a 15-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole, the par-four 10th, moments after burly Argentine Cabrera had narrowly missed his attempt from 18 feet.
“It’s incredible to be in this position,” Scott said in the Butler Cabin before being helped into the revered green jacket by 2012 champion, Bubba Watson. “It’s an honor.
“I tried not to think about anything today along those lines,” Scott added, referring to the lengthy Australian title drought in the year’s opening major. “The thing I did well out there was to stay right where I was, stayed in that one shot.”
The duo finished the regulation 72 holes on nine-under-par 279, Scott sinking a 25-foot birdie putt at the last for a three-under-par 69 before Cabrera matched him after hitting a brilliant approach shot to just three feet on 18 for a 70.
It was the fifth playoff at Augusta National in the last 11 years, and the second in a row with American Watson having edged out South African Louis Oosthuizen 12 months ago.
There had previously been eight runner-up finishes by Australians at the Masters, three of them achieved by Greg Norman.
“Australia is a proud sporting nation and this is one notch in the belt that we never got,” added Scott, who led by one shot with two holes to play at the 2011 Masters before South African Charl Schwartzel birdied the last four holes to win by two.
“It’s amazing that it came down to me today. There was one guy who inspired a nation of golfers and that’s Greg Norman. He’s been incredible to me and all the young golfers in Australia. Part of this definitely belongs to him.”
Scott’s victory at Augusta National earned him welcome major redemption after he squandered a four-shot lead with four holes to play in last year’s British Open at Royal Lytham for South African veteran Ernie Els to land the title.
Cabrera and Scott were both in perfect position off the tee on the first playoff hole but the Australian narrowly failed to hold the green with his approach, his ball spinning backwards before settling just off the fringe.
Cabrera followed suit, venting his frustration after squandering a possible advantage when his second shot rolled back off the front of the green to end up a couple of yards below Scott’s ball.
The Argentine came desperately close to holing his chip shot, his ball sliding past the right edge of the cup. Scott’s chip came up three feet short but both players safely parred to keep the playoff alive.
At the par-four 10th, both players found the middle of the fairway off the tee. Cabrera, playing first, hit his wedge approach to 18 feet below the hole before Scott fired his to 15 feet.
The Argentine narrowly missed sinking his birdie attempt, his ball tantalisingly ending up on the edge of the cup after curling from right to left.
Scott and his caddie Steve Williams spent a long time lining up the Australian’s putt before he settled and stroked the ball toward the hole, loud roars erupting around the green when it disappeared into the cup.
“That how golf is,” 2009 Masters champion Cabrera, who had been seeking a third major title, graciously said greenside. “I had that chip on 18 … I could have won it. But Adam is a great winner.
“Obviously I would have been happier if I would have won but he is a great person, a great player. I get along with him. We’ve been together on Presidents Cups. I’m happy for him.”
Australian Jason Day, who made an explosive birdie-eagle start before surging two ahead with three consecutive birdies from the 13th, fell back into third place at seven under after making two bogeys in the last three holes to close with a 70.
Four-times champion and pre-tournament favourite Tiger Woods signed off with a 70 to share fourth place at five under with Australian Marc Leishman (72).
Woods’ bid for a 15th major title, and his first since 2008, effectively ended when he made bogeys at the fifth and seventh, though he rebounded with three birdies after the turn to claim 11th top-five finish at the Masters.
“I had my opportunities to finish with some good numbers this week and I felt like I really played well,” said Woods. “I played this week the way I’ve been playing all year, and that’s a good sign.
“I thought 65 would win it outright today. I thought that was going to be the number. So who knows? If I would have shot my number, it might have been a different story.”
Northern Irish world number two Rory McIlroy, whose Masters title bid was derailed by his third-round 79, signed off with a 69 for a two over total of 290.
Huge roars echoed around the 18th green well before the leaders teed off after China’s 14-year-old Guan Tianlang, the feel-good story of the tournament, two-putted for par to sign off with a 75.
The youngest competitor ever at the Masters, Asia-Pacific Amateur champion Guan had already clinched the silver cup awarded to the low amateur at the Masters after becoming the youngest player to make the cut at a major championship. (Editing by Frank Pingue)