Adam Scott produced the performance of his life to win the Masters Sunday and finally exorcise the demons of last year’s British Open.
Scott, the first Australian to ever wear the famous green jacket, defeated Argentina’s Angel Cabrera on the second hole of the playoff after both men finished on nine-under on an enthralling day at Augusta.
As Scott sank the winning putt on the 10th at Augusta he banished the pain and heartache which had haunted him following his humiliating collapse at Royal Lytham last July.
On that occasion, the 32-year-old had looked set to win his first major until he somehow contrived to blow a four shot lead with just four holes remaining.
But with the eyes of the sporting world upon him, Scott showed nerves of steel to hole his putt and finally end Australia’s Augusta curse.
“I don’t know how that happened,” Scott said in a television interview after his historic triumph.
“It seems a long, long way from a couple years ago, or last July when I was trying to win a major. It was incredible.”
Scott’s character and determination came to the fore at a course where his country’s most famous golfer suffered so mercilessly.
Greg Norman, the man who squandered a six shot lead on the final day at the 1996 Masters, was the closest Australia had come to a Masters champion.
Norman lost out to Augusta native Larry Mize in a playoff in 1987, just a year after his bogey at the 18th allowed Nicklaus to win his 18th and final major.
Two years ago, Scott and Jason Day finished tied for second as Charl Schwartzl produced an astonishing final four holes to win the tournament.
But this time Scott got the job done and the Adelaide-born player was quick to praise the man who had come so close at Augusta in years gone by.
“It’s incredible to be in this position,” said Scott, who had earlier shot a three-under 69 for the final round.
“Australia’s a proud sporting nation and it’s amazing that it’s come down to me today.
“There was one guy who inspired a nation of golfers and that’s Greg Norman. Part of this definitely belongs to him.”
He later added: “A phone call isn’t going to be enough; I’d like to share a beer with him.”
Taking the green jacket from last year’s winner Bubba Watson, Scott stood proudly after an afternoon which neither he nor Australia will ever forget.
His birdie on the 18th, the 72nd hole of the weekend, produced a hugely emotional celebration with Scott appearing to believe had finally won a major.
But while he walked back to the clubhouse, 2009 champion Cabrera produced an exquisite shot to ensure a relatively simple putt and the opportunity of a second Masters title.
The playoff provided an exhilarating climax to a round which was played amidst worsening conditions with the rain constantly falling and the light deteriorating.
After both making par on the first playoff hole at the 18th, the pair moved to the 10th and while Cabrera failed to make a birdie, Scott made no such mistake as he holed from 15 feet to spark delirium.
Cabrera would have been the second oldest man to have won the tournament at the age of 43, with only Jack Nicklaus, who won at the age of 46 in 1986, ahead of him.
It would have been some achievement for the Argentine, currently ranked 269th in the world.
“That’s how golf is,” Cabrera, who hit a final round 70, said. “I came back. I had my chance to win it. Adam is truly a good winner.
“He’s a great person and a great player and I’m happy for him.”
Australia’s Day was one of the first to congratulate Scott after he missed out on qualifying for the playoff — eventually finishing two shots back on seven-under for the tournament.
“It was really tough,” Day told reporters. “The pressure got to me a little bit.”
While Scott celebrated, World No.1 Tiger Woods refused to blame his two shot penalty for taking an incorrect drop during his third round Saturday.
Woods finished with a final round of 70 to finish four shots off the lead — but the U.S. star refrained from blaming Saturday’s incident.
“We could do that ‘what if?’ in every tournament we lose,” he told reporters.
“We lose more tournaments than we win out here on tour, so that’s just part of the process and I’ll go back to it.
“I thought 65 would win it outright today. I thought that was going to be the number and it looks like it was. If I would have shot my number, it might have been a different story.
“I had a tough time getting accustomed to the speed of the greens, they were so much slower than yesterday. I left every putt short on the first eight holes.
“I played well but unfortunately did not make enough putts and missed a few shots here and there. I had an opportunity today.”
World No.2 Rory McIlroy carded a closing 69 to finish the week at two over par, but the Northern Irishman was satisfied with his game despite failing to challenge the leaders.
“I know I’ve played good enough golf here to win, it’s just a matter of stringing it all together,” McIlroy said.
“I was in a good position and did not quite have it all yesterday and that really cost me.
“You have to be right on your game for 72 holes here, I played a five hole stretch in five over and that was really it. I played nicely again today, if I just limit the mistakes from yesterday I am right there.
“It’s frustrating. Sometimes you hit a good shot and all of a sudden it’s off the green; it is what it is and you have to embrace it.
“It’s Augusta and you’re going to get some good bounces, you’re going to get some bad. It will all even out in the end.”
Earlier Sunday, China’s 14-year-old sensation Guan Tianglang finished his momentous week with a three-over 75 to leave him 12-over for the tournament.
Guan, the youngest ever player to make the cut, received the Silver Cup after finishing as the leading amateur.
“It’s not easy to play here and make the cut and be the low amateur and I think I did a pretty good job,” Guan told reporters.
“I’m a little bit tired today. There are still a lot of things to improve. My short game is good, but I could still get better and my driving has to get a little bit longer. Yes, everything needs to improve.”
Defending champion Bubba Watson endured a nightmare final round, dunking his ball into the water on three separate occasions at Rae’s Creek.
Watson hit a seven-over 10 on the 12th — Augusta’s shortest hole at just 155-yards.
“If you’re not going to win, you’ve got to get in the record books somehow,” Watson told reporters after carding a final round 77, seven-over for the tournament.
“So I’m a guy that got a double digit score on a par three.”
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