AUGUSTA, Ga. – The gray, rainy afternoon was one of the ugliest in years at Augusta, but for Adam Scott, it’s one of the most beautiful of his life.
With the rain steadily falling, Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera back-to-backed two of the finest pressure shots in recent memory at Augusta. Scott stood on the green, his ball 30 feet from the hole, his telephone-pole-sized belly putter in his hand. Behind him, Cabrera stood in the middle of the fairway, waiting.
Scott found the putting stroke that had eluded him during the final holes of his British Open collapse last season, draining a putt that toured all the way around the cup before dropping in. But before Scott could even reach the white bricks of the scorer’s building, Cabrera’s approach dropped to within four feet of the cup. One birdie later, and the Masters was headed to extra frames.
On the first playoff hole, No. 18, the players matched each other virtually stroke for stroke, and their drives off 10 were nearly identical as well. But it was Scott who won with a long birdie putt, celebrating for himself and for Australia, which had never produced a Masters winner until now.
A Masters dominated by talk of rules throughout the first three days began Sunday with – let’s be honest here – a pretty dull opening few hours. Nobody made a move, with the exception of Thorbjorn Olesen, who posted a -4 to vault himself into the top 10, and Bubba Watson, who carded a horrific 10 on the 12th hole.
Your cast of characters was a mix of young and old, popular and unknown: Scott, only a few months removed from the British Open debacle. Cabrera, who hadn’t won since taking the 2009 Masters. Brandt Snedeker, the FedEx Cup champion who seemed ready to win his first major. Jason Day, the charismatic Australian who’d been within shouting distance of the lead at so many majors of late. Mark Leishman, who … is named Mark Leishman.
For most of the afternoon, Cabrera appeared in control. He’d checked in from wherever he goes during the years-long stretches when he’s not winning majors, and he was calmly hacking away at the course. He’d played the front nine in -2. But then The Duck’s dynasty came to a sudden end. First there was the bogey on 10, when he couldn’t pull off a Bubba-esque miracle. Then came Amen Corner, where Rae’s Creek decided to liven up the afternoon a bit.
First, Snedeker’s approach to the green rolled into the creek. Then, incredibly, Cabrera tried the same shot. Snedeker was able to save par, Cabrera was not. But Snedeker was effectively done for the day, while Cabrera was able to fight his way back into the hunt with a hammer-down birdie on 16.
And then there was Tiger Woods, the man who’s always the story even when he’s not the story. After spending most of the last few months convincing us that he was, if not “back,” at least ready to compete in the year’s most important major, Woods slipped back into his old bad habits of recent years: poor putting and poor shot execution. As is his custom, he did enough to keep everyone interested. He had a short putt on 16 that would have brought him to within two of the lead, but wasn’t able to convert. He finished the day at -5.
Day, meanwhile, suffered perhaps the cruelest twist of all. He started the day at -5 and a birdie-eagle run to start the day put him at -8. He gave two strokes back, and on 12 his scorecard began resembling a bell curve: birdie-birdie-birdie-bogey-bogey.
And then came the 18th, where his putt that would have likely forced a playoff skirted by the hole. Shortly afterward, Scott and Cabrera began their game of anything-you-can-do, and Day became a footnote.
-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-