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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Adam Scott thought his celebration for a dramatic birdie putt at the 72nd hole was the most exhilarating moment of his professional career. But, when Angel Cabrera upstaged the occasion with a pulsating birdie of his own, Scott got to do it again.
And boy did that feel good.
If one ground-shaking birdie wasn’t enough for one day, Scott delivered another amid the raindrops at the Augusta National Golf Club, this one a 12-footer on the second playoff hole to win the 77th Masters for his first major victory.
“I don’t know how that happened,” Scott said when it was all over Sunday. “There was luck there, but it was incredible. It’s incredible to be in this position. I’m honored.”
The victory was additionally sweet for Scott, 32, because he became the first Australian player to win the green jacket. And he did it by making birdies on four of the final eight holes he played, including two in the playoff.
It was quite a different finish from what happened in the 2012 British Open when Scott bogeyed the final four holes to hand the title to Ernie Els — a defeat that caused some to wonder just how Scott would rebound.
“Australia is a proud sporting nation, and this is one notch in the belt we never got,” Scott said. “It’s amazing it came down to me. There was one guy who inspired a nation of golfers, and that’s Greg Norman. Part of this definitely belongs to him.”
Scott appeared to win the Masters at the end of regulation when he made a bending, right-to-left 18-footer for birdie that so many other past Masters champions have made on the 72nd hole. The putt brought a wild celebration from the normally quiet Scott, who pumped and shook his arms in delight and high-fived his caddie, Steve Williams.
But, playing in the group behind, Cabrera upstaged the celebration by stuffing his approach through the raindrops to 2 ½ feet — dramatically answering Scott’s amazing moment with one of his own to force the sudden-death playoff. Both players finished at 9-under 279.
“There was a split second I thought I had won, but you never count your chickens,” Scott said. “It was a spot where we had seen so many guys win, and I thought it was my time to step up to make a putt to win a Masters.”
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It was quite a finish by Scott, who made just two bogeys in the last 49 holes and closed with three birdies in the final six holes of regulation to shoot 69.
And it was an equally pulsating finish for Cabrera, who overcame a watered approach at No. 13 to birdie two of the final three holes to shoot 70 and tie Scott.
For a Masters that had little excitement and few roars for most of 3½ days, Scott and Cabrera provided an electric atmosphere on the 72nd hole of regulation that probably hasn’t been witnessed at Augusta National in a long time, if ever.
“I let myself think I could have won, and I let that show a little,” Scott said. “Angel hit an incredible shot, and it was time to get myself ready to play a few more holes.”
Cabrera, 43, from Argentina, was trying to win his second green jacket and third major championship. He came within inches of doing so on the first playoff hole when his chip shot from in front of the 18th green narrowly missed going in for birdie.
And he narrowly missed a 16-foot birdie on the second playoff hole, setting the stage for Scott’s winning putt. Scott and Cabrera were teammates for the International team in the President’s Cup, and they shared a big embrace on the 10th green.
“That’s how golf is,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “I had that chip on 18, I could have won. Adam is a good winner. I would have been happy if I won, but he’s a great person, a great player. I’m happy for him.”
Jason Day of Australia made a run at his first major title with the help of two remarkable bunker shots — a holed shot for eagle from the greenside bunker at No. 2 and a nice recovery for birdie from the greenside bunker at No. 13.
But his chance was derailed when he made back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17, right after he had made three consecutive birdies to take a two-shot lead.
Day, 25, ended his third round much the same way, making bogeys at Nos. 17 and 18 to fall from the 54-hole lead. He shot 70 and finished at 7-under 281, two shots from the playoff.
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“That wasn’t what I wanted to do,” said Day, who finished second in the 2011 Masters. “It was really tough. I think the pressure got to me a little bit.”
Tiger Woods tried to make a run on the back nine with birdies on the two par-5s — Nos. 13 and 15 — but the world’s No. 1 player shot 70 and finished at 283, four shots back. It was a disappointing ending for Woods, who came to Augusta National as an overwhelming favorite but was penalized two shots for taking an illegal drop on the 15th hole during the second round.
Woods, a four-time Masters champion, has now gone eight years without a green jacket.
“I played well. Unfortunately, I didn’t make enough putts and also missed a few shots here and there,” Woods said. “I certainly had an opportunity today.”
Scott got a break at No. 13 when his approach took a right hop off the putting surface and began rolling down the bank to Rae’s Creek. But, much like what happened to Fred Couples at No. 12 when he won in 1992, Scott’s ball stopped on the slope and he was able to pitch his third to 2 ½ feet for birdie. That was the first of four birdies in the final eight holes, including the playoff.
“I got a break there,” Scott said.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Dulac is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.