On Sunday, 32-year-old Australian Adam Scott won the Masters in a playoff over 2009 champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina. The final day of this year’s Masters, hampered by rain, was a true test of nerves. Those in contention either met the challenge or failed.
Take the co-leader after 54 holes, Brandt Snedeker, the fifth-ranked player in the world, who in 2008 collapsed in round four shooting a five-over 77. During his postround press conference on Saturday, the Tennessee native said he had learned from his mistakes and was prepared for the pressures of the final day of a major. Unfortunately for Snedeker, five years’ worth of experience did not seem to help him as he shot himself out of contention with a three-over 75.
This left Scott, Cabrera, Jason Day and Tiger Woods among those in contention. Tiger ran into difficulty of his own on Friday, when his third shot on the par-five 15th hole hit the flagstick and ricocheted into the water. He retook his shot and finished the hole with a six. However, after the round he was assessed a two-stroke penalty after he admitted to dropping his ball 2 yards behind his original third shot. Had Tiger’s third shot not hit off of the flagstick, his final-round 70 might have put him in the playoff alongside Scott and Cabrera instead of tied for fourth. I guess the Golf Gods were against him this week.
Jason Day, who tied for second at Augusta in 2011, led by two standing on the 16th tee after birdying 13, 14 and 15. However, his nerves got to him and he bogeyed 16 and 17 to finish the tournament in sole possession of third place.
Only Scott and Cabrera were up for the challenge. Both came to the 18th hole at 8-under par and only a few minutes after Scott sank a 20-foot birdie putt to move to 9-under, Cabrera calmly hit his iron to within 3 feet of the flag and tapped in his birdie to set up a playoff. After Cabrera’s third shot chip missed the cup by an inch, both players parred the first playoff hole. On the final playoff hole, Cabrera again missed a birdie by an inch. Scott, on the other hand nailed his 12-foot putt to become the first Australian to win the Masters.
Last July, this moment seemed unlikely for Scott. At that time he lead the Open Championship by four shots with only four holes to play. He collapsed, bogeying every remaining hole to lose the Claret Jug to Ernie Els by a single shot. Some commentators openly questioned how much that loss would affect him. Scott has been on the world golf scene for over a decade, won millions of dollars and been ranked as high as third in the world. He has enjoyed the fruits of his success, dating women like Ana Ivanovic and Kate Hudson. However, for all his success, a Major Championship remained the one piece missing from his resume.
With this win, Scott not only achieves a career breakthrough, but exorcises the many demons Australian golfers have encountered at Augusta National. During his Butler Cabin interview, Scott acknowledged this, saying, “There’s one guy that inspired a nation of golfers, and that’s Greg Norman. … Part of this belongs to him.” Norman, who was the top-ranked golfer in the world for over 300 weeks, infamously came second at the Masters in 1986, 1987 and 1996 but was never able to break through and win at Augusta.
A stark contrast can be made between the leader after the first round and the leader after the final round. Sergio Garcia and Scott have had very similar careers. They both have been ranked in the top three in the world, made millions of dollars, suffered major championship heartbreak (Garcia in the 2007 Open) and never quite lived up to their prodigious talent.
Scott, however, did not succumb to the tragedy of his past. Garcia — who finished tied for eighth after an opening-round 66 — on the other hand, said in a press conference last year, “I’m not good enough, I don’t have the thing I need to have. In 13 years [as a pro], I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to play for second or third place. I have no more options. I wasted my options. …Tell me something I can do.” Garcia has been broken by his past and chooses to look behind him. Scott was hardened by his past, but made more mature. The difference between the two: Garcia is now 0–58 in Majors and Scott is the 2013 Masters champion.