Rock-Solid Redemption

AUGUSTA, GEORGIA | The back nine at Augusta National doesn’t ask questions. It makes demands. It insists upon rock-solid nerve and unwavering self-belief. It requires that you choose a direction while standing tenuously at the intersection of destiny and desire. And golf’s history is littered with those who didn’t have enough of one thing or another on the day that these things are decided. A half-dozen could have been added to the list on Sunday. Adam Scott met all those demands and more. He emerged out of the rain and the gloom from the place where The Masters begins and dreams live and die in unequal parts. In the end, he won golf’s most coveted piece of clothing and the undying admiration of a nation. On one of the most thrilling evenings in recent Masters history, Scott not only made a championship- caliber birdie on the 72nd hole, he holed a tension-filled birdie putt on the second playoff hole, beating Angel Cabrera and effectively chasing off the ghosts of lost majors past. This Masters victory is Scott’s first major championship title, at long last, and the first Masters title for the nation of Australia. Greg Norman famously was runner-up three times, while Scott and Jason Day tied for second in 2011 when Charl Schwartzel birdied the last four holes to win his first green jacket. And this victory serves to erase the pain and doubt of last year’s Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Annes when he bogeyed the final four holes to hand the Claret Jug to Ernie Els when it was Scott’s for the taking. Now he is a sporting hero to a country of 30 million sports-mad people. “It’s amazing that it was my destiny to win this,” said Scott, 32, who has now won nine PGA Tour events and 11 other international events. Scott, like thousands of other aspiring golfers of his generation, grew up with heaps of admiration for Norman, who in the end turned out to be one of the tragic figures of The Masters. “He was an icon,” Scott said. “To have him as a role model in everything he did was a tremendous thing for us. He did so much for golfers like me and was incredibly generous. He gave me so much inspiration and belief in myself. “We are close, so a phone call won’t be enough. I look forward to sitting down and sharing a beer with him to talk about this.” Scott won this Masters title with a combination of good breaks and important putts down the stretch. He shot 69 on Sunday – his third 69 of the tournament – and tied Cabrera at the end of 72 holes at 9-under 279. To get there, Scott started the day one back of Cabrera and Brandt Snedeker, who were the 54-hole co-leaders. A bogey at the first after a wild tee shot and a birdie at the third were the only things happening to Scott until the par-5 13th. He tried for the green in two, and his second shot hit the front of the green and trickled down the bank toward Rae’s Creek. Incredibly, it hung there and Scott was able to chip and putt for a birdie that got him into a tie with fellow Australian Jason Day at 7 under, one behind Cabrera. From there, Day stormed ahead with three straight birdies starting at the 13th to move him to 9 under and the lead on his own. But Day met his end with bogeys at the 16th and 17th and he wound up third at 7 under, two shots out of the playoff. “I think pressure got to me a little bit,” Day said. Cabrera, meanwhile, fell out of the lead when he tried to reach the 13th green in two off the pine needles to the right of the fairway. His shot did find the water, and he failed to get up and down from the drop area and made bogey. But he made a 15-footer for birdie at the par-3 16th and found himself tied for the lead with Scott headed into the last hole. Scott, playing one group ahead of Cabrera, holed a birdie putt at the 18th from about 20 feet and thought that he might have won the tournament. “I felt it was my chance and I had to seize it,” Scott said. “It was my chance and I took it.” But once more, Cabrera demonstrated why he has won two major championships, including the 2009 Masters, also in a playoff. He hit a 7-iron from 163 yards to within three feet, making the putt and forcing the playoff. On the first playoff hole, the 18th, both players were short of the green in two and Cabrera nearly chipped in. Two pars sent the combatants to the 10th hole. Scott and Cabrera hit the green in regulation and Cabrera’s birdie putt just grazed the right edge of the hole. Scott was looking at his putt but couldn’t see much because it was almost dark. So dark, he said, that he doubted they would play another hole if the 10th had been halved. “I couldn’t see the break and I called (caddie Steve Williams) in for the read,” Scott said. “I rarely call him in and I thought there was about a cup of break. He told me, ‘Two cups, at least.’ He was my eyes on that putt.” Scott and Cabrera, Presidents Cup teammates, shared an embrace and Scott fell into the arms of his father, who had traveled from Australia to see his son shake off the shackles of potential unfulfilled. And of all the game’s demands, that redemptive promise is its greatest reward.


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