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A Nation Cheers Its Champion

The moment overcame me. Sitting in the expansive and staid media centre at Augusta National as Adam Scott rolled in his Masters-winning putt, I stood and roared. It’s hard to claim objectivity when your clenched fists are thrust toward the roof, but whether the seasoned scribes’ stares were laced with contempt or delight at my passion, it mattered not. I was a tiny snapshot of my country. All around Australia, people roared as the green jacket was pulled across the shoulders of one their own for the first time. Between 9 and 10 a.m. on a working Monday morning, TV ratings surpassed those of the major football codes across the weekend. By 9:55 a.m., Prime Minister Julia Gillard had tweeted her “huge congratulations” to Scott. Countless confessions of tears were on my phone by 10 a.m. At dawn on Tuesday morning, the nation’s biggest-selling newspaper, Melbourne’s Herald Sun, was on the street and soon sold out with a souvenir wraparound of the paper, dedicating 11 pages to recognise the feat. By 9 a.m. that day, anecdotal reports had tee time bookings through the roof at clubs around the country. For an outsider to understand this outpouring, you need to know that as our athletes go, so goes Australia. But, more than that, Scott had finally brushed off the monkey that, in its 63year existence, had begun to resemble King Kong on steroids. The beast was effectively born in 1950 when Jim Ferrier had the tournament-low round, led with a handful of holes to play and lost by two strokes to Jimmy Demaret. Bruce Crampton was beaten only by Jack Nicklaus charging to the fourth of his six green jackets in 1972, then Jack Newton was bridesmaid to another legend, Seve Ballesteros, in 1980. Amid a host of top10 finishes, Greg Norman was second three times in some of the most storied – and heartbreaking – Augusta National finishes in 1986, 1987 and 1996. Then Jason Day and Scott himself were brought undone by a record four consecutive closing birdies by Charl Schwartzel in 2011. If you’re keeping count, that’s eight runner-up finishes – for a country that considers itself a sporting winner. It just didn’t sit well. Australians have always taken enormous pride in achieving results beyond our relatively tiny population’s means.


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