Australian beats Angel Cabrera in playoff after both hit clutch shots

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — In one moment, Adam Scott’s fists clenched and his neck tendons went taut and out came forever’s worth of frustrations. One ball rolled a long way into a cup across a soggy patch of grass, and he shouted down Australia’s enduring failures at the Masters: Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, joy, joy, joy.

Through the downpour, Scott carried his country’s flag into the scoring area to sign off on it all. But down the fairway lurked an Argentine who is at ease here.

Angel Cabrera roused everyone once more, rolling in a birdie putt, putting his son in a headlock on his way off the course while the day grabbed hold of everyone: Scott and Cabrera, tied at 9 under, and the Masters in a sudden-death playoff.

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By the end, it was getting dark in Augusta. But it was a new day on the other side of the world.

Scott drained a 12-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole Sunday to become the first Australian to win the Masters, thrusting his hands into the air and unleashing his second primal scream.

“We’re a proud sporting country and like to think we’re the best at everything, like any proud sporting country,” Scott said. “Golf is a big sport at home, and this was one thing in golf we hadn’t been able to achieve. It’s amazing it’s my destiny to be the first Aussie to win. Just incredible.”

None of his countrymen did this, not Greg Norman, not five-time British Open champion Peter Thomson, not anyone. The specters of their past torments were vanquished. His own collapse at the British Open last summer — losing a four-shot lead with four to play — became a footnote. The 32-year-old handled that crushing defeat with dignity and pledged to finish stronger given another chance. “Next time — I’m sure there will be a next time — I can do a better job of it,” he said that day.

Fellow Australians dominated this weekend: Jason Day finished third at 7 under and Marc Leishman tied Tiger Woods for fourth at 5 under. But after back-to-back top-10 finishes at the Masters, Scott authored an ending no one would forget.

“He’s been looking for it, searching for it, this major title,” said Cabrera, a two-time major winner. “He’s achieved it, so I’m pretty sure his life is going to change really fast right now.”

Neither Scott nor Cabrera led as late as the 15th hole; that belonged to Day, who then posted back-to-back bogeys to open the door.

Scott was close to perfect, and he had to be with Cabrera delivering some brilliance of his own.

Moments after Scott made his clutch birdie on the 18th hole for a 3-under 69 to take a one-shot lead — “C’mon, Aussie!” he screamed — Cabrera answered with a 7-iron from 163 yards that plopped down 3 feet from the cup, one of the greatest shots under the circumstances. That gave him an easy birdie and a 2-under 70. They finished at 9-under 279.

Once Scott and Cabrera charged through, disaster threatened them on the first playoff hole.

Both approaches rolled off the 18th green, but two brilliant chips led to two pars. On the second playoff hole, No. 10, both again reached the green. But Scott couldn’t read the putt in the darkness and called over practiced eyes: Steve Williams, who caddied for 13 of Woods’ 14 major victories.

“The winning putt might be the highlight putt of my career,” Williams said. “Because he asked me to read it.”

“I don’t get him to read too many putts,” Scott said. “He said it’s at least two cups, it’s going to break more than you think. I said, ‘I’m good with that.’ He was my eyes on that putt. It managed to hang in. Amazing feeling.”

It rolled true and elation began anew. He met his father at the 10th green, the two embraced, and the elder Scott said simply to his son: “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Later, Scott emerged for his jacket fitting on the practice green, sidewalk lights illuminating the path through a tunnel of full-throated Aussies.

Once the jacket slipped over his shoulders, Scott threw his arms up and his head back, smiling as the rain fell and everything seemed bright as day.

“I’m a proud Australian and I hope this sits really well back at home,” Scott said, “and even in New Zealand.”

The Masters had been the only major that never had a champion use a long putter. Scott’s victory means four of the past six major champions used a putter pressed against their belly or chest, a stroke that might be banned in 2016.

Scott was just as gracious in victory as he was last summer in crushing defeat at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He and Cabrera flashed a thumbs-up to each other after their shots into the 10th hole in the playoff, and they walked off the 10th green with their arms around each other when it was over.

“Such is golf,” Cabrera said. “Adam is a good winner.”

A sentiment definitely being repeated today in Australia.

The Associated Press

contributed to this report.

After the final round
Player Score To Par
x-Adam Scott 69 — 279 -9
Angel Cabrera 70 — 279 -9
Jason Day 70 — 281 -7
Marc Leishman 72 — 283 -5
Tiger Woods 70 — 283 -5
Fred Couples 71 — 287 -1
Ryan Moore 68 — 292 +4
x-won playoff on second hole

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