Not only did Adam Scott win the Masters on Sunday, ending the country’s agonizing drought at Augusta National, Jason Day and Marc Leishman gave Australia three golfers in the top four.
Day finished third, while Leishman and Tiger Woods tied for fourth.
”I’m a proud Australian,” Scott said, ”and I hope this sits really well back at home.”
Australia may not have the golf tradition of, say, Scotland or England. But Australians are big on sports of any kind, and they’ve been particularly ga-ga for golf since Greg Norman was one of the world’s best.
Norman’s misfortunes at Augusta National — 1996, anyone? — elevated the Masters to almost mythic proportions for Australian golfers, and every one of them knew they were playing not only for themselves but the whole country any time they got in contention.
Day seemed to have the best shot, taking a two-stroke lead with three holes to go. But he made bogeys on the next two holes to fall a stroke behind, then ran a birdie putt that would have put him back in the lead a foot past the hole on 18. As the ball rolled past the cup, Day crouched down and put a hand to his face.
It’s the second time he’s faltered won the stretch at the Masters, finishing second in 2011.
”Pressure got to me a little bit,” said Day, who finished two strokes behind Scott and Angel Cabrera.
”It’s unfortunate. But I’m very happy with how things are going right now with Adam,” Day said as Scott was heading to his playoff with Cabrera. ”I’m hoping he can be the first player, if it wasn’t me.”
Leishman was never really a threat to win. But few even expected him to be on the leaderboard.
He’s ranked 108th in the world, and his only PGA Tour win was last year at Travelers. He’d missed the cut in four of his previous seven tournaments.
Oh, this was only his second appearance at the Masters, too. In his first, a year ago, he missed the cut.
”Obviously it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to today, but I also had a great tournament,” said Leishman, who finished four strokes behind Scott after shooting his second straight 72. ”It’s something to build on for the rest of the year, for sure.”
And now that the oh-fer streak is over, maybe there will be more green jackets in Australia’s future.
”It’s a little disappointing, but there’s a lot of experience that I can take into next year,” Day said. ”Hopefully I can wear one of those green jackets soon.”
SEE YOU AGAIN
For a guy who’d never been to Augusta National before, John Huh figured the place out pretty quickly.
Not only did Huh get an automatic invite to next year’s Masters by finishing 11th, he also took home a nice piece of crystal after an eagle on the par-5 15th.
”That’s what I’m really looking forward to receiving,” Huh said.
Asked how he knew about the prize, the Masters rookie said someone told him about it during a practice round.
”They told me, `Every time you eagle you get crystal.’ So that’s what I was looking forward to,” Huh said.
Huh was hovering on the edge of the cut line after going 70-77 the first two days. But he made it by one stroke, then climbed up the leaderboard with a 71 on Saturday. He followed that with a 4-under 68 on Sunday, the second-best score of the day.
That tied him for 11th, with Tim Clark, and ensured he’ll be back next year.
The top 12 players are guaranteed entry into next year’s tournament. Fellow Masters rookie Thorbjorn Olesen also booked a return ticket with his tie for sixth.
”That was my goal, actually, before I teed up today, trying to come back here next year if I could,” Huh said. ”I’m really pleased with the way I played today and look forward to playing next year.”
In the meantime, Huh will savor the memories of this week.
”I’m taking two weeks off after this, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a good memory for two weeks,” he said. ”Hopefully I can take all the positive stuff from what I did this week to the next tournament.”
For a guy who made a 10 on a par-3, Bubba Watson was in a great mood.
”No matter what, when I end my career I’ll be able to say I was the Masters champion one time,” the 2012 winner said. ”Unless I make them mad, I’m coming back for the rest of my life. I’ll be here and I’ll have a green jacket sitting in the locker room. You can’t get mad at the situation.”
Watson doesn’t take himself, or his game, too seriously, and having a green jacket hasn’t changed that.
He got off to such a slow start this week he was paired with a marker in the first pairing Saturday. After making up some ground in that round, he picked up two more strokes on the front nine Sunday.
He had no trouble on the 10th hole, where he famously hit a wedge out of the trees to beat Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff.
Then he got to No. 12.
Watson hit his tee shot in the water, then hit another one in the water from the drop area. His fifth went into a back bunker, but his shot from there rolled past the pin into the water.
He made a 12-footer for his 10.
”If you play golf long enough you’re going to make a hole in one. I’ve had three, and I had one this week,” said Watson, who aced the 16th during a practice round Wednesday. ”And you’re going to go the other way, as well, you’re going to have bad scores. Today was just my day to have a bad score.
”I couldn’t get the club to do what I wanted it to, so I made a quick 10.”
But it didn’t spoil the day. Watson was paired with Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, and the two spent a lot of their round comparing notes and reminiscing about winning at Augusta National.
”It was just all about enjoyment and about enjoying the moment,” he said, ”and remembering about the tournament that I happened to play good in and win a green jacket.”
Playing poorly is always a disappointment for Phil Mickelson.
Doing it at the Masters only makes it worse.
Lefty tied for 54th on Sunday, his worst finish in the 20 times he’s made the cut at the Masters. The only time he’s scored worse than his 9-over-297 was in 2007 (299), when conditions were brutal.
”I just had an off year, I don’t know what to tell you,” the three-time Masters champion said. ”This was disappointing for me in that this is my favorite place in the world to play. This is my favorite place to be, my favorite tournament and the one I look forward to the day after it ends. And to perform like this is disappointing.”
Though part of Mickelson’s problem was technical, he didn’t feel as sharp as he normally does at a major after taking last week off.
He usually plays the Houston Open the week before the Masters. But the tournament swapped dates with the Texas Open this year and Mickelson didn’t think the setup at the San Antonio site was conducive to his preparation for Augusta National.
”I’ve got to look at that because the things I did this week to get ready, I just wasn’t as mentally sharp as I need to be,” he said. ”I’ve got to find another way to get ready for big events if I’m not able to compete before.”
Sandy Lyle celebrated the 25th anniversary of his Masters win in style.
The 1988 champion shot a 1-under 71 on Sunday, only the fourth time in the past 14 years he’s broken par at Augusta National. He finished at 9-over 297 for the tournament.
”I would have been very happy to make the cut at the start of the week,” Lyle said. ”But when I played (last) Sunday, I went round with six birdies and three bogeys so I was 3-under. So that sort of gave me a little bit of hope.”
Lyle stuck a 7-iron from a fairway to within 10 feet in 1988, then made the downhill putt to beat Mark Calcavecchia.