Adam Scott shakes off shackles of past failure with nerveless victory in Masters
He ends Australia’s 77-year wait for a winner at Augusta
Fate has a way of finding a favoured son, even if Adam Scott – who fulfilled his own destiny in finally winning a Major with his dramatic, nerves-of-steel play-off win over Angel Cabrera in the 77th US Masters – must have wondered, deep down, if the other-worldly GPS system to him had gone haywire.
Now, we know that all those past failings only served to make him more durable; and, ultimately, a better player.
In securing a precious Green Jacket, one of golf’s greatest prizes, Scott – with Tiger Woods’ old caddie Steve Williams on the bag – only served to lay a number of ghosts to bed: his own, for starters, in rebounding from his travails in last year’s British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes where he had the Claret Jug in his grasp only to relinquish a four-shot lead in sad fashion; and secondly, his nation’s, in ending whatever hex was placed on Australians at Augusta National.
At Lytham last year, when Scott missed a putt on the 72nd hole to earn a play-off, it looked for all the world as if his time had come and gone, that the mental scars would be a block to any further advancement. Yet, much as Rory McIlroy picked himself up after his own Masters travails of 2011 and won the US Open at Congressional just a matter of months later, Scott also learnt from the traumatic experience and re-emerged in the Majors with greater fortitude.
“I said after the [British] Open how I felt, and I meant it. It did give me more belief that I could win a Major. It proved to me, in fact, that I could.” Some nine months down the line, he was to prove himself right and the doubters wrong. “It’s amazing that it’s my destiny to be the first Aussie to win, just incredible,” said Scott, who – picking at the ghosts which have haunted his fellow-countrymen around Augusta in past years – singled out Greg Norman, who lost out to Nick Faldo in 1996 in one of golf’s most public meltdowns, for the knowledge and help that the “Great White Shark” had imparted to him throughout his career.
Scott, who was struggling and “in a rut” with his game in 2009 when Norman, as captain, picked him as a ‘wild card’ for the Presidents Cup match, said: “He [Norman] inspired a nation of golfers, anyone near to my age, older and younger. He was the best player in the world and he was an icon in Australia. Everything about the way he handled himself was incredible to have as a role model . . . he’s devoted so much time to myself and other young Australian players who came after him, was incredibly generous.”
In advocating “part of this is for him,” Scott expanded: “He’s given me so much time and inspiration and belief. I drew on that a lot. I somehow managed to stay in each shot when I needed to.”
Indeed, the quality of the golf towards the end of regulation and on into the play-off was exceptional, as Scott and Cabrera – seeking a third career Major to join an elite band that includes Pádraig Harrington and Vijay Singh – went mano o mano for the title. Ironically, Cabrera was one of those who in the past had helped to instil confidence in the Aussie.
At that 2009 Presidents Cup, when Scott was at a low ebb, Cabrera had taken him aside. “You’re a great, great player,” the Argentine had reminded him.
On Sunday, the pair – rather than being international team-mates – were duellists in the gathering gloom. Scott got a break on the par-five 13th where his ball stayed on the bank of the creek and he got up and down for birdie, whilst Cabrera’s plunged into the hazard as he registered a bogey for a two-shot swing. “There was so much golf to go and I had no momentum on the day at that point. I was trying to get something to happen. That was a great break,” acknowledged Scot.
But the real and compelling drama came on the 72nd hole of regulation and on into the play-off. On the 18th hole of the final round, Scott showed his mettle with a birdie that raised the ante. “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,” he recalled.
Unlike Lytham where the putter seemed to be an alien object coming the stretch, Scott holed clutch putts on Sunday when it mattered most: on the 18th, a birdie that gave him the outright lead until Cabrera, in the pairing behind, answered him with on of his own; on the 18th again, in the first play-off hole, when he sank a nervy five-footer for his par; and, then, on the 10th, the second tie hole, when he rolled in a near 15-footer for birdie.
There, as dusk gathered, Scott – unsure of the line – had called over his bagman Williams.
“I could hardly see the green in the darkness. I was struggling to read it, so I gave Steve the call over. I don’t get him to read too many putts, because I felt like I was reading good. I said, ‘Do you think it’s just more than a cup?’ He said, ‘It’s at least two cups, it’s going to break more than you think’.”
Scott abided by his man’s wisdom and struck home the putt that rid him of the shackles of past failure.