The Masters: Cabrera beats Perry in sudden death
Published 12:00 am Monday, April 13, 2009
By Doug Ferguson
AUGUSTA, Ga. ó The Masters delivered the show everyone wanted and a champion no one expected.
Angel Cabrera became the first Argentine to win the green jacket at Augusta National on Sunday by surviving a wild final round that began with a supercharged duel between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and ended with a stunning collapse by Kenny Perry.
Indeed, this Masters had it all.
Two shots behind with two holes to play, Cabrera fought his way into a three-way playoff when the 48-year-old Perry, on the verge of becoming golf’s oldest major champion, bogeyed the final two holes.
Even in a playoff, Cabrera looked like the odd man out.
He drove into the trees, hit another shot off a Georgia pine, but still scrambled for par with an 8-foot putt. He won with a routine par on the 10th hole when Perry missed the green badly to the left and made yet another bogey, this one the most costly of them all.
“I may never get this opportunity ever again, but I had a lot of fun being in there,” Perry said. “I had the tournament to win. I lost the tournament. But Angel hung in there. I was proud of him.”
Cabrera, who won the U.S. Open at Oakmont two years ago, finally earned a green jacket for Argentina.
It was 41 years ago when Roberto de Vicenzo made one of golf’s most famous gaffes, signing for the wrong score that denied him a spot in a Masters playoff.
De Vicenzo gave him a picture of a green jacket two years ago when Cabrera returned home as U.S. Open champion and told him to go for it. On this turbulent day, it took everything Cabrera had.
“This is a great moment, the dream of any golfer to win the Masters,” Cabrera said through an interpreter during the green jacket ceremony. “I’m so emotional I can barely talk.”
He closed with a 1-under 71 to get into the first three-man playoff at the Masters in 22 years.
Chad Campbell finished with a 69 and was eliminated on the first playoff hole when he found a bunker from the middle of the 18th fairway, then watched his 6-foot par putt lip out of the hole.
The final hour was almost enough to make a dizzy gallery forget about the Woods-Mickelson fireworks hours earlier.
For those who feared Augusta National had become too tough, too dull and far too quiet, the roars returned in a big way. Mickelson and Woods played together in a final round of a major for the first time in eight years, and they proved to be the best undercard in golf.
Mickelson tied a Masters record with a 30 on the front nine to get into contention. Woods chased him around Amen Corner, then caught him with three birdies in a four-hole stretch that captured the imagination of thousands of fans who stood a dozen deep in spots for a view.
But it ended with a thud.
Mickelson lost his momentum with a 9-iron into Rae’s Creek on the par-3 12th, and when he missed a 4-foot eagle putt and a 5-foot birdie putt down the stretch. He had to settle for a 67 that left him three shots behind.
Woods bogeyed the last two holes for a 68 to finish another shot back.
Then came the Main Event.
Perry did not make a birdie until his 20-foot putt on the 12th curled into the side of the cup. Campbell, playing in the group ahead, narrowly missed two eagle putts on the back nine to forge a brief share of the lead.
It looked like Perry had the green jacket buttoned up when he hit his tee shot to within a foot of the cup on the par-3 16th hole for a two-shot lead over Campbell and Cabrera, who made an 18-foot birdie putt on the 16th just to stay in the game.
But after going 22 consecutive holes without a bogey, he made two at the worst time.
From behind the 17th green, Perry’s chip was too firm and tumbled off the front of the green for a bogey. Then, he hit the biggest tee shot of his life into the left bunker on the 18th, and missed his 15-foot putt for par.
“I had a putt to win,” Perry said. “I’ve seen so many people make that putt. I hit it too easy.”