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Golf Tidbits: Scott finally slams the door in a major

6:36 AM, Apr 15, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In the end, there were no penalties or slow play warnings for the combatants to worry about. There was just plain old good golf.

The 77th Masters really didn't start until the final nine on Sunday.

Though I referred to that idea as a fallacy a week ago (link last week's column (http://tinyurl.com/cevasoo), this is the third straight year that idiom came to fruition.

The first 65 holes of the Masters were fairly bland. The last nine were things of beauty. Obviously, that equals 74 holes, not 72, because for the second straight year the season's first major needed two playoff holes to determine a winner.

In the final six holes of regulation, the two playoff foes combined for five birdies and one bogey. Their closest pursuer ran off three straight birdies from the 14th. These three were trying to win the title with birdies, not lose it with bogeys like Jason Day did.

Day followed his three straight birdies with a pair of bogeys to miss the playoff by two shots. That left it to Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera.

Scott hit some of the best shots of his life from the 72nd to 74th holes. However, Cabrera matched the first nine of those shots to a tee.

Tied at minus-8 on the final hole of regulation, Scott's tee ball on No. 18 stopped short of a bunker in the rough. He hit his approach to 22 feet.

As Scott strode up to the final green, Cabrera piped his drive down the middle of the fairway. The Argentine stood next to his ball as Scott poured in his birdie effort.

Cabrera, a two-time major champion, was undaunted. He stuffed his second shot within three feet of the hole. The 2009 Masters winner drained that putt to force a playoff.

Scott and Cabrera returned to the 18th and played follow-the-leader on the first extra hole. Both found the short grass of the tee, then each spun their approach shots off the front of the green.

Cabrera nearly ended things there with a chip-in, but his ball curled around the right edge of the cup. Scott left his chip a little short, but both converted their par attempts.

The pair headed to No. 10, where a year earlier Bubba Watson hit a remarkable shot from the trees to beat Louis Oosthuizen.

The first four shots were similar to each other again. Both were in the fairway with their first shots, though Cabrera was a little shorter after hitting an iron off the tee, then onto the green with their second shots.

Cabrera had the first look. His right-to-left-breaking birdie putt eased painfully by the right edge and stopped inches from the lip of the cup. He tapped in for par, hoping to return to the 18th tee.

Scott would have none of playing another hole. He lagged his birdie putt perfectly into the bottom of the cup to win his first major championship, and become Australia's first Masters champion.

Watching Scott down the stretch, and particularly in the playoff, one would have never known this was the same guy who bogeyed the final four holes to lose last year's British Open.

Nor was he the player who couldn't keep up with Charl Schwartzel down the stretch at the 2011 Masters.

Scott was a more focused player looking to win his first major title after posting eight top-10 finishes in the majors since 2002.

The 32-year-old accomplished the mission. Scott won his first major, and now he is one of a few players who has won the Players Championship, a World Golf Championship, the Tour Championship and a major.

The group is exactly three deep - Scott, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Select company indeed, and Scott has earned his way into that lofty trio.

FANS WIN BY COUPLES LOSING

There are few golfers fans cheer harder for then Fred Couples. No one can pin point why, but Couples is beloved by the fans at every event he competes in.

Sure he played the final three rounds in 3-over par, but the fans won because of those struggles.

Couples, you see, joked earlier in the weekend in a television interview that if he were lucky enough to win the Masters, that would be it. He'd walk away from golf entirely, except for one week a year.

Masters week.

The 1992 champion adores this tournament so much, that he would quit playing all PGA and Champions Tour events except one. Couples seemed to be joking at the time, but you could grasp his admiration for the tournament and the course.

Few tournaments treat their former champions as well as they do at Augusta National and the Masters.

So Couples struggled to a 77 in round three and fell from contention. He needed two birdies in the last four holes to end in red figures.

Luckily for the fans, he'll be back out on the Champions Tour soon, and leading the U.S. Presidents Cup in the fall. And the fans will be there rooting him on, wishing their golf swing was as smooth as Couples' and their demeanor was as relaxed as his.

MINI-TIDBITS

* There are many reasons to admire Cabrera, and you can add this to the list. Win or lose on Sunday, he was heading back to his native Argentina this week to play in a PGA Tour Latinoamerica event at the course he grew up caddying on.

* Tiger Woods' drought in the major continues. His last major title was in 2008, when he beat Rocco Mediate on a torn left knee at Torrey Pines.

The Sports Network

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