By Sean Martin, Golfweek
AUGUSTA, Ga. — The golfer with model looks struck a pose as evening fell on Augusta National’s putting green. Adam Scott cast long shadows on the grass as the cameras flashed. He raised both hands in the air and lifted his face skyward, soaking in the raindrops that had fallen throughout the day. This victory washed away any blemishes that remained from last year’s Open Championship, where his bogeys during the final four holes had cost him his first major.
Now he had that defining triumph, and at the event that his homeland so deeply desired. Scott was the Masters champion, accepting the Green Jacket from Bubba Watson after a heroic finish that so contrasted last year’s Open at Royal Lytham.
Scott missed a 7-foot par putt there last year that would have forced a playoff with Ernie Els. This time, Scott made a 25-footer to birdie the final hole, then won with a 12-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Angel Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion.
Australia’s first Masters title seemed probable Sunday, as the country was represented by three of the top five players at the start of the day. Scott, who began Sunday one shot off the lead, shot 69 to earn the honor. “It’s amazing that it’s my destiny to be the first Aussie to win,” he said. “Just incredible.”
Scott’s only bogey Sunday came on the first hole. He birdied No. 3, then had three more on the second nine, at Nos. 13, 15 and 18. He’d struggled with the speed of the greens earlier in the round, but told himself at the turn, “This is where you have to be a little bold and just stroke freely, because you’re going to have to make putts to win this thing.”
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Scott and Cabrera finished at 9-under 279, two shots ahead of Jason Day – who also had reached 9 under after a birdie at the par-5 15th, but bogeyed the next two holes. Day waited at the scoring area to hug Scott, who walked off the 18th green holding an Australian flag.
Scott was alone in the lead when he finished his round. It didn’t last long. Cabrera, playing in the next group, hit 7-iron to 3 feet to match Scott’s birdie. Cabrera almost chipped in on the first playoff hole. He hit his approach on the second playoff hole, Augusta National’s par-4 10th, to about 16 feet, then watched as Scott hit to 12 feet. Cabrera gave Scott a thumbs-up as they walked toward the green, and Scott returned the gesture. Cabrera missed his birdie putt, setting the stage for the victor.
“That’s golf,” said Cabrera, the 54-hole co-leader with Brandt Snedeker, who closed with 75 to finish sixth. “Sometimes you make those putts, sometimes you just miss them.”
Scott and Day had shared second place at Augusta National two years earlier after being passed by Charl Schwartzel’s birdies on the final four holes, adding to Australia's near-misses at Augusta National. Greg Norman was the author of many of those, most notably in 1996 when he lost a six-shot lead and in 1986 when he made bogey on the 72nd hole to lose to Jack Nicklaus by one shot.
Scott had trouble reading the winning putt as darkness settled on the 10th green, which is surrounded by Augusta National’s towering pines. He asked his caddie, Steve Williams, for help with the read. Williams saw his share of dramatic putts at Augusta National after working for Tiger Woods. Williams called the clincher, "the highlight putt of my career. . . . I told Adam it breaks more than he thinks. Adam thought it was a cup outside. I told him it was two cups outside.”
Destiny indeed seemed to be on Scott's side when his second shot at the par-5 13th improbably clung to the short grass on the steep bank right of the green, somehow avoiding the water below. It was reminiscent of Fred Couples’ tee shot to the par-3 12th in his 1992 victory, which also inexplicably stayed dry.
Day seemed like he'd be the winning Australian when he birdied Nos. 13-15 to reach 9 under and take a two-shot lead. He made bogey on the next two holes, though, pulling his tee shot left of the green at the par-3 16th and hitting his 8-iron approach to No. 17 in a bunker. “It was just a few little mental errors here and there,” said Day, who also led when he holed a greenside bunker shot for eagle at the par-5 second hole.
Scott can relate to Day. Both have lost a major lead with late bogeys. Last year’s Open Championship was simply prologue to a historic achievement for Australia, though. Scott will share it with Norman, whose agony at Augusta overshadows his two victories at the tournament Scott let slip away last year, the Open Championship.
“Part of this is for (Norman) because he’s given me so much time and belief,” Scott said of his Masters triumph. “I drew on that a lot today. I somehow managed to stay in each shot when I needed to. ... A phone conversation isn’t going to do it for us. We are really close, and I’d love to share a beer with him over this one.”