Scott ended a lifetime of heartache for Australian golfers Sunday when he drained a 15-foot birdie putt on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff with Angel Cabrera of Argentina to win the 77th Masters.
It was the second year in a row the Masters was decided in a playoff and it ended on the same hole – No. 10 – where Bubba Watson claimed victory a year ago.
“Incredible,” he said. “I’m a proud Australian and hope this sits really well back home – even in New Zealand. It’s hard to exactly put it all together in my mind at the moment.
“I’ve said before we are a proud sporting country and like to think we are the best at everything ... Golf is a big sport at home. It may not be the biggest, but it’s been a sport that’s been followed with a long list of great players and this was one thing in golf that we had not been able to achieve.
“So, it’s amazing that it’s my destiny to be the first Aussie to win. Just incredible.”
Even Masters media committee chairman Craig Heatley, a New Zealander, couldn't contain his excitement. In introducing the newest Masters champion to the assembled press, he said when he heard the roar coming from the patrons lining 10 at the conclusion of the playoff, he heard "about 30 million people in Australia and New Zealand all cheering as well."
Scott shot a final-round 69 to finish at 9-under-par 279 for the week. He and Cabrera finished two shots ahead of third-round leader Jason Day. Tiger Woods made a late charge after losing momentum in the middle of his round and finished tied for fourth with Marc Leishman – another Australian – at 283.
The win was worth $1.44 million to Scott and gave the 32-year-old a lifetime invitation to the tournament.
The reach of the Aussies’ frustration at Augusta goes way back. Eight Australians have finished either second or T-2 in Masters history before Scott finally broke the barrier for his first major and ninth PGA Tour victory. Greg Norman finished second three times, none more famously than in 1996 when he held a six-shot lead going into the final round and lost to Nick Faldo in a playoff.
“Part of this definitely belongs to him,” Scott said.
But Scott has had his own bitter disappointments in the majors. He finished tied for second here in 2011 and last year at the British Open he bogeyed the last four holes with a four-shot lead to open the door for Ernie Els’ win.
Scott looked to have won it on the 72nd hole of regulation when he made a 25-foot birdie putt to get to 9-under. It forced Cabrera to make his first career Masters birdie at 18 to extend play, but the 43-year-old was up to it, hitting a 7-iron from 163 yards to about two feet.
“For a split second I let myself think I won, but never count your chickens,” Scott said. “That putt, I’ve seen so many guys have to win, it was time for me to step up and see how much I want this. To make a couple putts to win the Masters Tournament is just an amazing thing.”
Actually, he wasn’t feeling too good about his putting speed control on the greens, and the rain that fell on the greens throughout the day just added to his worry.
But his long putter was as true as ever on the 72nd hole of regulation. He’s the fourth player in the last six majors to win with a long or anchored putter.
When the putt dropped, he reacted excitedly and should the popular back-home phrase “Come On, Aussie.” He said he hoped caddy Steve Williams, a Kiwi who was on the bag for the first 13 of Tiger Woods’ majors, would allow him that bit of indulgence.
“That’s the putt you’ve seen guys hole – (Mark) O’Meara is the one that comes to mind,” he said, referring to winning putt in 1998. “I just told myself to go with instinct; just put it out there and hit it. Show everyone how much you want it. This is the one.”
Scott and Cabrera went back and forth like they did on 18 the rest of the night.
Both parred the first extra hole, virtually matching shot for shot. Their drives were mere yards apart in the fairway and both their approach shots spun back off the green. Cabrera nearly holed his chip, the ball running just past the right edge of the cup. Scott’s chip came up short, but both players easily made their putts to extend the play.
The second playoff hole, with light diminishing, was more of the same. Both players were yards apart off the tee. Cabrera hit his approach first and made the green below the hole. Scott followed and feathered a 6-iron into the green pin high to the right of the hole, prompting Cabrera to give him a “thumbs up” sign to acknowledge the effort.
Cabrera’s putt nearly curled into the hole, coming within inches of hitting the edge. Scott followed and, using Williams as “my eyes for the putt,” read about two cups of break and drained it.
When the putt fell, Scott leaned back on his heels and raised his arms in triumph. He was approached by Cabrera, the two hugged and then Scott hugged his father behind the green.
"He said, 'It doesn't get any better than this,' which is true," Scott said. "It's a moment that I'll never forget.
"He was at The Open last year and was as positive as anyone. I'm sure he was gutted inside, but nice that I was able to kind of reward him with this one today while he was here -- because he only comes to those two events."
Once third-round leader Brandt Snedeker fell off the pace coming around the turn and even though Woods was charging from way back it was evident down the stretch the tournament was going to go to another international player – either Scott, Cabrera or Day.
Four of the last six Masters have been won by internationals.
After three straight birdies in the middle of the back nine – a run started by a brilliant back-bunker shot on 13 – Day held a two-shot lead standing on the 16th tee, but bogeyed the par-3 after missing the green and followed it with a bogey on 17 to fall out of the lead. He jumped into the fray early with a birdie-eagle start.
“It’s a little disappointing,” Day said, “but there’s a lot of experience that I can take into next year and hopefully I can wear one of those green jackets soon.”
Snedeker lamented not adjusting to the slower speeds of the greens in the final round. He left most of his putts short all day.
“I was there for one reason – to win – and I didn’t do it,” he said. “I did not putt the way you’re supposed to putt around Augusta. If I putt the way I normally putt and don’t make those two loose swings” – on 10 and 13 – “I’m right there with a chance to win the golf tournament.”
Cabrera, who has played in the final group each of the last three odd-numbered years, was bidding to become the second-oldest Masters champion. With the nickname El Pato (The Duck), it was looking for the longest time that he’d be the most appropriate winner on such a rainy day.
The 2009 champion held a two-shot lead throughout much of the middle part of his round, but lost a ton of momentum – and eventually the lead – when he went for the 13th green from the pine straw 200 yards out and his ball spun back into the creek.
“I had a very good angle, a very good lie,” he explained. “I was thinking about making a birdie. I told my son we could do an eagle, also.”
Instead, he made bogey.
That opened the door for Scott and Day to fight it out to be the one who broke the Aussies’ drought until Cabrera worked himself back into the fray.
Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.