The agony and ecstasy of the Masters
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2009 US Masters | Round Four | 13 Apr 2009
On a day full of drama and emotion, Angel Cabrera has emerged as the winner of a three way playoff for the 2009 Masters. Cabrera dodged a bullet at the first extra hole (the 18th) and then produced a rock solid par at the second (the 10th) to edge out long time leader, Kenny Perry, and Chad Campbell the latter of who had bowed out on the first extra hole.
It was a day that delivered even more than it promised. The runs came early from Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods who threatened to make light of their huge third round, seven shot deficit. Mickelson in particular was simply stunning as he raced to the turn in 30 and at that point was within one Cabrera and Perry who shared the lead at 11 under. Woods was at 7 under and four from the lead as he and Mickelson walked to the 10th tee and at that stage is appeared as if the drama of a last nine holes involving Mickelson and Woods on Sunday at Augusta National would unfold yet again.
Playing one hour earlier was the pairing of Perry and Cabrera and it was the Argentine who was the first to make a move when he birdied the second after a great par save at the first and he was at 12 under. Cabrera bogeyed the 4th and 5th and the lead would see-saw through the front nine but when all had completed the front 9 the lead at 11 under was Perry’s by one over Campbell and Cabrera and by two over Mickelson.
Mickelson arrived at the 12th hole at 10 under but what appeared to be a very poor execution of his tee shot there led to a double bogey. Caught between an eight or a 9 iron he hit the 9 and did not strike it as well as he needed given that the yardage he had was at the limit of his 9 iron. It rolled back into the water and although he created further chances for himself he had left himself too much to do.
When Woods birdie the 13th, 15th and then hit a brilliant 7 iron to 4 feet at the 16th for yet another birdie he was at 10 under and then within one of Perry’s lead. Surprisingly Woods bogeyed the 17th after a poor drive left and then bogeyed again at the last after misadventure in the right hand trees. Mickelson was playing with Woods and when he too bogeyed the 18th from the fairway trap his chances were all but gone.
The focus returned to the leaders. Perry moved two ahead when he holed from off the edge of the green at the 12th for his first birdie of the day after a run of 11 straight pars. He moved further ahead when he two putted from long range at the 15th to move to 13 under and appeared to hit the winning shot when he when he hit an 8 iron to a foot a par three 16th to move to 14 under and two ahead with two to play.
Given the manner in which he had been playing there seemed little likelihood of Perry letting such a lead slip but this was the final day at the Masters and with his first major title staring him in the face things were about to change. He would bogey the 17th after a poor chip from behind the green and then pulled his second from the fairway trap at the 72nd. He failed to get up and down, missing what would have been the tournament winning putt from 15 feet.
In the group ahead Campbell had finished his round ten minutes earlier and at 12 under he set the mark for Cabrera and Perry to match. Cabrera produced a superb up and down for par at the last to finish at 12 under along with Perry and so it was back to the 18th tee.
Campbell was eliminated with a bogey from the right hand trap while both Perry and Cabrera salvaged pars, Cabrera’s in particular miraculous given that he hit a tree with his second and was left with more than 100 yards for his third. So it was on to the 10th where Cabrera hit two fine shots to 15 feet and two putted for par to better Perry’s bogey.
“I had mud on the right side of my ball, said Perry referring to his second to the second playoff hole “I told Freddie that. I said, “We got mud on the right side of the ball.” I said, “It’s going left. I just hope it don’t go too far left.” And it just kept easing its way over left and kind of missed on the bank there and spin it on down. I guess I should have aimed it more right, but it’s a tough deal. You don’t know quite what it’s going to do.”
After losing his only other major playoff 13 years ago when he lost to Mark Woods at the 1996 PGA Championship, Perry will be devastated. He was however particularly gracious in defeat praising his conqueror’s fortitude in hanging in there over the closing stages.
“I’m not going to feel sorry,” said Perry later. “If this is the worst thing that happens to me, I can live with it. I really can. Great players get it done, and Angel got it done. This is his second Major he won. I’ve blown two, but that’s the only two I’ve had chances of winning.”
When asked what shot he would like over again he was quick to say the first putt at the 13th. He three putted from 40 feet behind the flag. “That really hurt, I mean, because I knew I knew the putt. I knew the break. But I couldn’t believe how fast that putt was, and I just barely got it going. I was hoping my 5 iron, as it was coming in there, would kind of hit the slope and boomerang it back down to where the pin was but it didn’t. It went on up and stayed up, which I thought was kind of unlucky.”
The winner however was a deserved champion. Like all great players he found a way to get it done under some of the most extreme pressure. Not that Cabrera ever gives the impression he is under pressure, his swaggering walk and Latin flair perhaps disguising a steely determination beneath. The 39 year old now joins a select group of players with two or majors to their name along with his other near misses at the elite level, including when finishing one shot out of the playoff at the 1999 Open Championship.
Of the Australians, Geoff Ogilvy was almost predictably the best of them although he had to produce something special over the closing stages to defeat Aaron Baddeley for that honour by just one shot. Ogilvy birdied five of his last six holes to finish at 5 under and in 15th position while Baddeley produced by far his best finish at Augusta when 17th, Stuart Appleby was 30th and Robert Allenby 38th.
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