Scott outlasts Cabrera in playoff, wins Masters

Adam Scott capped a Masters full of history, becoming the first Aussie winner, says Steve Eubanks.

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- This Masters had so many firsts it was hard to keep track.

Tianlang Guan won low amateur honors after becoming the first 14-year-old ever to play in the tournament and the first player in recent memory of any age to receive a slow-play penalty at the Masters.

Tiger Woods became the first to play from a wrong place and sign an incorrect scorecard who wasn’t disqualified or didn’t withdraw. 

Then you had Fred Couples contending into the weekend at age 53 followed by Bernhard Langer, 55, making an early charge on Sunday. Not exactly firsts -- but fun to see nonetheless.  

As if all that wasn’t enough, for the first time in Masters’ history you had one player, Adam Scott, birdie the final hole to take the lead followed by another, Angel Cabrera, who birdied it to force a playoff. All previous sudden-death playoffs at the Masters had come from someone missing a putt on the final hole.

Tiger bogeyed the 72nd hole to fall into a playoff with Chris DiMarco in 2005. Kenny Perry bogeyed it to fall into a tie with Cabrera in 2009. Bubba Watson missed a birdie putt at 18 that would have won the tournament outright, forcing the playoff with Louis Oosthuizen where Bubba hit the famous 147-yard rope-hooked gap wedge to win.

But this time was different. This time both Scott and Cabrera made clutch birdies to force a playoff.

Both men drove the ball beautifully down the stretch, and both hit quality approach shots to the toughest greens in the game. On the final hole of regulation, Scott, playing one group ahead of Cabrera, hit a good tee shot just short of the fairway bunkers, and then struck a perfect approach just right of the flag, leaving a relatively flat, right-to-left breaking putt of 20 feet.

When it fell, the loudest roar of the week echoed through the pines.

Five minutes later, Cabrera hit a laser 8-iron from the middle of the fairway that looked as though it might go in the hole. The ball stopped four feet away and the 43-year-old made a 4-footer for birdie to force a playoff.

The final first of the week came when Scott became the first Australian to win the Masters, a feat he accomplished with a flawless birdie at No. 10, the second playoff hole.

The win does a lot for Scott, and for Aussie pride. But it also does a lot for the game of golf.

The last four major champions -- Webb Simpson at last year’s U.S. Open, Ernie Els at the British, Rory McIlroy at the PGA Championship and now Scott -- are among the nicest, most accommodating athletes in all of sports.

“No honest person has ever said an unkind word about Adam Scott,” Butch Harmon said a few years ago. The same can be said of the others as well.

For centuries golf was known as a gentleman’s game, a sport where honor, integrity, courtesy and the customs of etiquette and decorum were more important than records or even the rules themselves. In recent years those values have shifted with television cameras capturing more thrown clubs and microphones picking up more vile obscenities than ever before. For awhile it looked like the game might go the way of some other professional sports where the athletes are great as long as you never have to interact with them. 

The current crop of major champions turns back that downward slide. This group, including Adam Scott, is worthy of admiration, not just for the caliber of their play, but for the kind of men they are. 

Having a great human being win the Masters was certainly not a first. There have been many. But adding Adam Scott to the major championship club puts one more good man at the top where he belongs.

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