Adam Scott wins 2013 Masters, redeems himself and his country
Adam Scott on Sunday became the first Australian to win the Masters, as he scored a lengthy walk-off birdie putt on the second playoff hole at Augusta National.
Not to overdo it, but Scott's victory was a tale of redemption, both for him and his country.
"I'm a proud Australian, and I hope this sits really well back home," Scott said. "Even in New Zealand."
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After a perplexing, rain-filled final round finally sorted itself out, Scott and Cabrera headed into the 72nd hold of regulation in different groups but on the same spot of the leaderboard at 8-under. Scott buried a long putt on 18 for birdie before erupting into an almost dangerous-looking celebration with his caddie, Stevie Williams.
"That was the putt," Scott said in Butler Cabin after admitting he thought he'd won for a second. "We've seen so many guys make it to win, and I thought it was time to step up and win."
Scott didn't win right then; Cabrera answered with a birdie of his own after a dart of a second shot, and things went to overtime with Scott and Cabrera squaring off in sudden death for the green jacket at 9-under apiece.
The pair both parred No. 18 in amazingly similar fashion; after Cabrera and Scott both hit strong drives on Holly, their respective second shots came up short of the green. A classic chip-off later and the pair headed to No. 10, where Cabrera won his first green jacket in 2009.
The Argentine nearly outdrove his Australian competitor with an iron off the tee at No. 10, but it became irrelevant as both players put their second shots on the green. Cabrera was away and came within inches of sinking his putt, but it missed the hole by mere inches.
Scott left nothing else to chance, though, burying the third-straight enormous putt of his day to win the 2013 Masters.
"I don't know how that happens. It fell my way today," Scott said. "There was some luck there somewhere. I don't know how to digest it all right now, but it was incredible. It's incredible to be in this position. It's an honor."
Cabrera, having previously been where Scott is, embraced the 32-year-old Australian on the green, clearly feeling thrilled for Scott, who has struggled to finally close at a major.
"I would've been happy if I would've won," Cabrera said through a translator. "He's a great person and a great player ... and I'm happy for him."
It's hard not to be happy for Scott, who came up painfully short at the 2012 British Open (won by Ernie Els) as he choked away a lead down the stretch and continued to look like a guy who simply might never win a major.
As I wrote at the time, that Open Championship wasn't about Els winning. It was about Scott losing, and it was a brutal, painful loss for an uber-talented golfer who never put it all together for four days during a major tournament.
But he erased that notion on Sunday evening with a masterful performance down the stretch. He drove the ball well, and his putter was on fire: Scott sunk a pair of birdie putts -- on No. 18 to force the playoff and No. 10 two holes later -- to win the tournament that combined for more pressure in the span of 30 minutes than most people see in their lives.
His win wasn't just about erasing those personal bad memories, though. It was about shaking off the collective angst of Australia at Augusta, even if Scott declined to expound on his historical placement afterward.
"I try not to think about anything today along those lines," Scott said. "The thing I did well out there today is just stay right where I was. Australia is a proud sporting nation, and this is one notch in the belt that we never got. Amazing that it came down to me, Jason Day and Mark [Leishman].
"There's one guy who inspired a nation of golfers, and that's Greg Norman. And part of this definitely belongs to him."
Norman, a Hall of Fame golfer, has a well-documented history at Augusta. The Shark lost crippling shots at a green jacket in 1986, 1987 and 1996, all in pretty notorious fashion.
With Scott's struggles at the majors and success elsewhere, it was reasonable to wonder if he might be looking to take over the dreaded "Best Player to Never Win a Major" label from Sergio Garcia.
Questions abounded about his ability to putt in the clutch, and it looked like a major might elude him; when Scott bogeyed the first hole on Sunday and didn't make another move on the front nine, that looked to be the case once again.
"Everybody questioned whether he could do it," Norman said after Scott's victory. "We all knew it. The players know it."
The players were right. Scott won the first green jacket for Australia. He shed years of struggles by Norman, a man whose golfing influence was shown by the trio of young down-underers atop the leaderboard during the final round.
"He inspired a nation of golfers," Scott said of Norman. "Anyone near to my age, older or younger, he was the best player in the world and he was an icon in Australia. Everything about the way he handled himself was incredible to have as a role model. And just that was enough, but he's devoted so much time to myself and other young Australian players who came after myself, just incredibly generous.
"Most of us feel he could've slipped a green jacket on for sure. Part of this is for him because he's given me so much time and inspiration and belief. And I drew on that a lot today, and I somehow managed to stay on each shot when I needed to."
Scott also dumped his own personal demons by the side of the road in a tiny Georgia town.
If history's any indication, it's possible that Scott could rip off a strong run at the major tournaments soon. There's so much pressure on the "next" guy in golf; we always want to crown someone who can challenge the old guard (aka Tiger Woods), and we always glare judgingly at a young golfer who can't close at a major.
The only looks that Scott will get now are impressive ones. The way that he carried himself late against a tough field under the incredible pressure of fending off the conditions and the course and the history, it's impossible to fathom slowing down that much with all that going on and doing what he did to win.
Though Scott's already 32 -- a bit older for golf success in this day -- the future's still bright, and no one would tell you otherwise.
"I think he'll go on and win more majors than any other Australian golfer," Norman said.
More importantly the past is a lot less heavy than it was 24 hours ago.
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