AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Adam Scott ended decades of Australian agony when he became the first player from his country to win the Masters with a high-quality playoff victory over Angel Cabrera at a rain-soaked Augusta National on Sunday.
Scott sealed the win with a 15-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole, the par-four 10th, before thrusting his arms skywards in triumph, moments after burly Argentine Cabrera had narrowly missed his attempt from 18 feet.
“It’s incredible to be in this position,” Scott said in the Butler Cabin before being helped into the revered green jacket by 2012 champion, Bubba Watson. “It’s an honor.
“I tried not to think about anything today along those lines,” Scott added, referring to the lengthy Australian title drought in the year’s opening major. “The thing I did well out there was to stay right where I was, stayed in that one shot.”
The duo finished the regulation 72 holes on nine-under-par 279, Scott sinking a 25-foot birdie putt at the last for a three-under 69 before Cabrera matched him after hitting a brilliant approach shot to just three feet on 18 for a 70.
It was the fifth playoff at Augusta National in the last 11 years, and the second in a row with American Watson having edged out South African Louis Oosthuizen 12 months ago.
There had previously been eight runner-up finishes by Australians at the Masters, three of them achieved by Greg Norman.
“Australia is a proud sporting nation and this is one notch in the belt that we never got,” said Scott, who led by one shot with two holes to play at the 2011 Masters before South African Charl Schwartzel birdied the last four holes to win by two.
“It’s amazing that it came down to me today. There was one guy who inspired a nation of golfers and that’s Greg Norman. He’s been incredible to me and all the young golfers in Australia.
“Part of this definitely belongs to him,” said the Australian, the fourth player to win a major title using a long putter anchored to the body since American Keegan Bradley triumphed at the 2011 PGA Championship.
Scott’s victory at Augusta National earned him redemption after he squandered a four-shot lead with four holes to play in last year’s British Open at Royal Lytham for South African veteran Ernie Els to land the title.
Twice major champion Cabrera and Scott were both in perfect position off the tee on the first playoff hole but the Australian narrowly failed to hold the green with his approach, his ball spinning backwards before settling just off the fringe.
Cabrera followed suit, venting his frustration after squandering a possible advantage when his second shot rolled back off the front of the green to end up a couple of yards below Scott’s ball.
The Argentine, whose world ranking has slipped to 269th following injury-hit seasons in 2010 and 2011, came desperately close to holing his chip shot, his ball grazing the right edge of the cup.
Scott’s chip came up three feet short but both players safely parred to keep the playoff alive.
At the par-four 10th, both players found the middle of the fairway off the tee. Cabrera, playing first, hit his wedge approach below the hole before Scott fired his to 15 feet.
The Argentine, at 43 aiming to become the first grandfather to win the Masters, narrowly missed his birdie attempt, his ball tantalizingly ending up on the edge of the cup after curling from right to left.
Scott and his caddie Steve Williams spent a long time lining up the Australian’s putt before he settled. He then stroked the ball toward the hole, and loud roars erupted around the green when it disappeared into the cup.
“That is how golf is,” 2009 Masters champion Cabrera graciously said after he and Scott had walked off the 10th green arm-in-arm. “I had that chip on 18 ... I could have won it. But Adam is a good winner.
“Obviously I would have been happier if I would have won but he is a great person, a great player. I get along with him. We’ve been together on Presidents Cups. I’m happy for him.”
Australian Jason Day, who made an explosive birdie-eagle start before surging two ahead with three consecutive birdies from the 13th, fell back into third place at seven under after making two bogeys in the last three holes to close with a 70.
Four-times champion and pre-tournament favorite Tiger Woods signed off with a 70 to tie for fourth at five under with Australian Marc Leishman (72).
Woods’ bid for a 15th major title, and his first since 2008, effectively ended when he made bogeys at the fifth and seventh, though he rebounded with three birdies after the turn to claim his 11th top-five finish at the Masters.
“I had my opportunities to finish with some good numbers this week and I felt like I really played well,” said Woods. “I played this week the way I’ve been playing all year, and that’s a good sign.”
American Brandt Snedeker, co-leader overnight with Cabrera, birdied the first to take sole charge but struggled with his driving and, most surprisingly, with his usually brilliant putting en route to a 75 and a tie for sixth.
Northern Irish world number two Rory McIlroy, whose Masters title bid was derailed by his third-round 79, ended his week with a 69 for a two-over total of 290.
Huge roars echoed around the 18th green well before the leaders teed off after China’s 14-year-old Guan Tianlang, the feel-good story of the tournament, two-putted for par to sign off with a 75.
The youngest competitor ever at the Masters, Asia-Pacific Amateur champion Guan had already clinched the silver cup awarded to the low amateur at the Masters after becoming the youngest player to make the cut at a major championship.
Editing by Frank Pingue and Julian Linden