AUGUSTA, Ga. – Adam Scott barely had time to think about an Australian in a green jacket when a sudden roar from the 18th green and a quick look at the TV reminded him it’s never been easy. Not for him in the majors. And certainly not for the Aussies at Augusta National.
He thought for a second it was over when he made a 20-foot birdie putt, the kind that always wins the Masters. In the scoring room, one last cheer on a soggy Sunday caused Scott to look up at the television after Angel Cabrera produced a great shot of his own, a 7-iron to 3 feet for birdie to force a playoff.
“The golf gods can’t be this cruel to Australia,” Greg Norman, the symbol of heartache at Augusta, said in a text to friends who were watching nervously.
Scott knocked in a 12-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to win that green jacket, personal redemption for his own failure last summer in the British Open and an end to more than a half-century of Australian misery at the Masters.
“We like to think we’re the best at everything. Golf is a big sport at home, and this is the one thing in golf we hadn’t been able to achieve,” Scott said. “It’s amazing that it’s my destiny to be the first Australian to win. It’s incredible.”
Halfway around the world on Monday morning, commuters cheered on buses going into Brisbane, the capital of Scott’s home state of Queensland. A speech by the prime minister was interrupted to give an update on the playoff.
The celebration was sweet, especially for the 32-year-old Scott.
It was only last summer when Scott threw away the British Open by making bogey on his last four holes to lose by one shot to Ernie Els. He handled that wrenching defeat with dignity and pledged to finish stronger if given another chance. “Next time – I’m sure there will be a next time – I can do a better job of it,” he said that day.
Scott was close to perfect, and he had to be with Cabrera delivering some brilliance of his own.
Moments after Scott made his clutch birdie on the 18th hole for a 3-under 69 to take a one-shot lead – “C’mon, Aussie!” he screamed – Cabrera answered with one of the greatest shots under the circumstances, setting up an easy birdie and a 2-under 70. They finished at 9-under 279.
They both chipped close for par on the 18th in the first playoff hole, and Cabrera’s 15-foot birdie putt on the 10th grazed the right side of the cup. Scott hit his 6-iron to about 12 feet, leaving him one putt away from a green jacket.
Under darkening clouds Scott said he could barely read the putt. That’s when he called over caddie Steve Williams and asked him to take over. Williams was on the bag for 13 of Tiger Woods’ majors, and read the putt that helped Woods to the 1999 PGA Championship.
“I said, ‘Do you think it’s just more than a cup?’ He said, ‘It’s at least two cups. It’s going to break more than you think,’ ” Scott said. “He was my eyes on that putt.”
“The winning putt might be the highlight putt of my career,” Williams said, “because he asked me to read it.”
With that long putter anchored to his chest, the putt was pure. The Masters had been the only major that never had a champion use a long putter.
What mattered more to Scott was that the Masters had been the only major an Australian had never won. He was among dozens of golfers who routinely rose in the early hours of Monday morning for the telecast, only to watch a horror show. The leading character was Norman, who had four good chances to win, none better than when he blew a six-shot lead on the last day to Nick Faldo in 1996.
There was also Jim Ferrier in 1952 and Bruce Crampton 20 years later. Scott and Jason Day tied for second just two years ago. Norman, though, was the face of Aussie failures at the Masters, and Scott paid him tribute in Butler Cabin before he slipped on that green jacket.
“Australia is a proud sporting nation, and this is one notch in the belt we never got,” Scott said. “It’s amazing that it came down to me today. But there’s one guy who inspired a nation of golfers, and that’s Greg Norman. He’s been incredible to me and all the great golfers. Part of this belongs to him.”
Reached at his home in south Florida, Norman told the Associated Press: “I’m over the moon. Sitting there watching Adam, I had a tear in my eye. That’s what it was all about. It was Adam doing it for himself, and for the country.”
Scott was just as gracious in victory as he was last summer at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He and Cabrera flashed a thumbs-up to each other after their shots into the 10th hole in the playoff, and they walked off the 10th green with their arms around each other when it was over.
“Such is golf,” Cabrera said. “Adam is a good winner.”