AUGUSTA, Ga. – Drenched by rain, drained of emotion, Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera found themselves in a prolonged bear hug on the 10th green of Augusta National, the two golfers patting each other on the back, shouting into each other's ear over the roaring crowd.
Scott had just bested Cabrera on the second playoff hole of these Masters, draining a clutch 12-footer in fast approaching darkness just moments after Cabrera's 15-footer somehow stayed out.
This was more than who won or who lost, however, because someone was going to win and someone was always going to lose. This was the culmination of an epic finale to an otherwise ho-hum (by its high standards) and controversy-filled Masters; two great golfers draining long putts, making daring chips and restoring not just the roar to the Georgia Pines here, but reminding everyone of the camaraderie of competition.[Related video: Controversial putter a game-changer for Adam Scott]
When their mesmerizing duel ended Sunday, there was no storming off in over-competitive anger, no woe-is-me heartbreak and no exaggerated celebration. The winner was gracious, the loser classy and for that they just kept patting each other on the back, side by side walking off the green.
"[I told him] I was happy for him," Cabrera said of their conversation. "That I know he deserved it."
Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera saved the 77th Masters.
Scott became the first Australian to win a green jacket by overcoming what seemed like a national plague of nerves that have doomed generations of his countrymen, most notably Greg Norman.
Rather than wilt with the steady-driving Cabrera coming on strong, Scott stood up and fought back. He drilled a 30-foot putt on 18 to move to 9-under, a shot that will be replayed for years. Scott stood and screamed, "Come on Aussie," as the gallery burst into pandemonium.
It was the kind of putt, Scott said, that he'd seen so many champions hit here that when it happened to him, he just assumed it was over.
"For a split second there, I thought I'd won," he admitted.
[Related: Tiger Woods may not have deserved penalty]
The wave of noise washed down the hill to the middle of the fairway, where Cabrera understood the stakes, and Scott wanted him to feel the magnitude of the moment.
"The chance to put all the pressure on the guy back down the fairway," Scott said.
El Pato cares little for pressure, though. He knew he needed to get up and down from 163 yards out. So he did just that, hitting a brilliant 7-iron to within about 6 feet.
By that point Scott was in the scorer's room, his joy of believing he was on the verge of winning the Masters replaced by the realization he had more work to do.
They replayed 18 and up by the green, same place that moments before Scott thought his dream victory was sealed with a historic shot, he watched Cabrera nearly chip in from the fringe, a shot that would have been even more historic. It buzzed the cup, only to stay out.
"My heart was about to stop there standing on the side of the green thinking, 'Is this is it, really?' " Scott said.
[Related video: Cabrera, Scott talk about dramatic Masters playoff]
Then it was onto a second playoff hole on 10, where Cabrera's potential tournament winning putt again just stayed out. "I think it almost hit the edge of the hole," Cabrera said. Then Scott, squinting through the darkness brought on by dusk and clouds, had to trust the read of his caddie and promise himself to be bold, to try to win this.
His putt hit the bottom of the cup.
"Amazing feeling," Scott said.
The final hour of this tournament, with the stakes at their highest, was amazing golf. Not just the stunning shots, but the feel-good moments, such as Cabrera giving Scott a thumbs up after a strong approach on the second playoff hole.
"Angel is a great man," Scott said.
The entire thing stood in contrast to nearly four full days of fitful play, scoring controversies, sportsmanship debates, penalty strokes, brutal Saturday conditions that rendered moving day moot and even a rain-soaked, mistake-prone final day, at least until the bitter end came along.
There is never such a thing as a bad Masters – this remains golf's best weekend each year. There are varying degrees of great, however, and this tradition like no other was headed toward the more forgettable part of the scale.
Then the golf took off, the sportsmanship shined through and two very different players – a tall, muscular, 32-year-old Aussie and a rumpled, 43-year-old Argentine – reminded everyone what makes this such a great stage for drama.
"It's an incredible camaraderie," Scott said. "He's a great guy."
Not long after their repeated hugs on the 10th green, Scott retired to Butler Cabin for a television interview, then a quick jacket ceremony on a wet, dark practice green. Australian fans were shouting and screaming and making a proud racket for their guy, turning this proper country club into a rowdy mess.
About the same time Cabrera was walked out of the Augusta National clubhouse and toward his car. He had a drink in one hand, a cigarette in the other. His quest for a second green jacket fell short, his role in saving the week did not.
"Golf gives and takes," Cabrera said.
Especially here, especially at the Masters.
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