Date: April 15, 2013
Author: Martin Blake / Golf Australia

Blake: It will live in millions of hearts forever

Tick off the Tour de France. Winter Olympic gold medals … put a stroke through that. The Masters? Tick that box as well. Adam Scott has conjured a moment that will live in millions of Australian hearts forever, the day that the 79-year hoodoo at Augusta National Golf Club was broken. None of the Australians who watched the Queenslander roll in his birdie putt from four metres at the second playoff hole this morning (Australian time) will forget where they were at that precise moment. Simply, this is a moment to go with the America&aposs Cup triumph in 1983, Cadel Evans&apos victory on the Champs Elysees two years ago, Laver&aposs Grand Slams and a cluster of Bradman&aposs runfeasts, to name but a few. It is one of the greatest moments in our country&aposs rich sporting history. Adam Scott deserved it, for he is a humble, young man, classy in demeanour and popular with his colleagues. He had also suffered the heartbreak of a near-miss, and perhaps it drove him; his eyes flashed as he played the back nine at Augusta today. Less than a year ago on the parched fields of Royal Lytham and St Annes in England, his moment of fame had arrived in the British Open Championship, the oldest of the majors. Scott had been around long enough to contend in majors, but fallen short each time, notably in 2011 when he was runner-up at Augusta. Now at Lytham, he would step on to the stage and fluff his lines. He bogeyed the last four holes and left the victory to Ernie Els, his South African friend, and his detractors would nod, knowingly. He does not have the bottle, they would say. So as he came to the back nine at Augusta this morning, there must have been doubts in his head. At the par-five eighth he three-putted for a par, then at the par-four ninth, he could not convert a good birdie opportunity. First Angel Cabrera, the laconic Argentine, and then fellow-Australian Jason Day would seize the lead. Scott sat just back in the pack, making par and the 10th and 11th and then narrowly missing a good birdie chance at the 12th. Right at that moment, it seemed that his inability to hole anything of substance on the greens would cost him again. But the 32-year-old his a lucky second shot at the par-five 13th hole where Cabrera had found the tributary of Rae&aposs Creek, and here was the moment that saved him. His iron shot popped up on to the green but trickled back toward the water, then stopped. Scott chipped up and then made birdie to find some momentum. Then that at the par-five 15th two great shots to the green gave him another birdie and had a share of the lead. He was error-free from there, making par at the 16th when he had a chance of birdie, and leaving his birdie putt at the 17th a couple of rolls short. Then on to 18, where the players must hit through a funnel of trees that is incredibly daunting. Scott piped his drive, then hit eight iron to the right side of the green and watched it feed down off the slope to eight metres from the cup. By this time, Day had made his mistakes at the 16th and 17th and posed seven-under, which left Cabrera, in the fairway just behind Scott at 18, as equal-leader and the only man who could threaten him. A lot of big putts have been made from that quarter to win at Augusta, which is not to say it is easy, a wicked right-to-left swinger. Scott&aposs effort dipped right to left, hit the low side of the cup and lipped in. As they say, you don&apost have to draw pictures on a scorecard. His celebration was monumental, and included a bellowed-out “Come on, Aussies!&apos&apos No need to wonder how he was thinking on this day; he was playing for his country as well as himself. At this moment he may well have felt he had the green jacket to himself. But now Cabrera, the instinctive genius from Cordoba, had his turn. With a short iron in his hand and his son Angel junior on his bag, the 43-year-old Argentine played a magnificent golf shot, stiff next to the pin at less than a metre. So as Adam Scott signed his card and high-fived with the crowd, Cabrera tapped in for birdie and a two-under 70, and we had a playoff between a man with two major triumphs and another seeking his first. At the first playoff hole, the 18th, both players spun their approaches off the front of the green. Cabrera&aposs chip almost found the hole, burning the cup on the right side, and it would have ended there. But Scott was reprieved, both men made par, and they went to the par-four 10th hole. Here is a golf hole that must go down as one of the best anywhere in the world, a downhill, left-to right par-four with a wicked green, where Bubba Watson won in a playoff in 2012 producing his ridiculous snap hooked wedge from the trees. Scott piped his drive down the hill; Cabrera hit iron for safety and then knocked his mid-iron approach to six metres from the flag. Enter Scott, who knew as he stood over his ball in the fairway, 180 metres from the cup, that he needed a good one. Right here, right now. He flushed it on to the right side of the green and watched it funnel down the slope, stopping just four metres from the flag. And so they traded blows. Cabrera, putting first, left his birdie attempt sitting millimetres behind the hole, so that Scott would have a wave of that long putter for the win, a downhiller but relatively straight. Steve Williams, his caddie, gave him the read: just curling from outside the right edge. BOOM. It went in. A nation rose to its feet, metaphorically and in many cases, literally. Adam Scott has been on a slow burn. He is 32 and this was his 48th attempt to win a major. He was a champion amateur and a long time ago he was earmarked as a major champion. As far back as 2004 he won the so-called fifth major, the Players Championship, at Sawgrass, which only enhanced the view that he was the next challenger to Tiger Woods. Hell, he even had a swing that looked like Tiger&aposs. But it was not so simple. Having climbed to No. 3 in the world, he suffered a downturn in his game around 2009. His short-range putting was dreadful, so much so that he converted to the controversial long putter at his coach Brad Malone&aposs suggestion. He reduced his schedule to focus on the majors. Then the Lytham debacle hurt him, and yet, it did not destroy him. Even then, last July, he appeared to respond well, and positively. The results this week show that he has used Lytham to motivate him, rather than chastised himself for his fragility. The green jacket and $1.44 million in prizemoney are his. But what he has achieved is really priceless. For now and forever, he is the first Australian winner of the Masters. He has climbed Australian golf&aposs Everest.