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Good On Ya Mate

There are some things that mean so much more, than just winning.

Incredibly, despite the glorious history of Australian golf and its litany of Major Championship winners, no Australian has ever won The Masters.

That lineage of the game’s great Australian players that traces back to Norman Von Nida, Jim Ferrier, Peter Thompson, Kel Nagle, Bruce Devlin, Bruce Crampton, Jack Newton, David Graham, Steve Elkington, Ian Baker-Finch and most notable of all, the sometimes tragic, Greg Norman.

This Sunday at Augusta, three Australians began the final round in the top five, behind overnight leaders Angel Cabrera and Brandt Snedeker.

Smooth swinging 29 year old, Marc Leishman, who had captured the first round lead with a superb 6 under par 66, remained in contention and began the day two shots back of the leaders at 5 under par. While Leishman would play steady golf again on Sunday, he would not be a featured performer in the final outcome. He would shoot a final round, even par, 72, to finish in tie for 4th.

25 year old prodigy, Jason Day, who has long been earmarked for greatness and has already been a Runner-Up in two Major Championships, was tied with Leishman to begin his day. Day exploded early in his round by birdieing his opening hole and then holing a brilliant bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 second, to give him the lead at 8 under par.

Day would bogey the sixth and ninth holes to slip back slightly before gabbing hold of the tournament again with three consecutive birdies on holes, 13-15. Standing on the 16th tee, Day had a two stroke lead with only three holes to play.

Meanwhile, 43 year old Argentinian and two time Major Champion (the 2007 US Open and the 2009 Masters), Angel Cabrera, playing with his usual flair and swashbuckling style,  had played the front 9 in 2 under par. Cabrera faltered with bogeys on the 10th and 13th holes to be at 7 under par.

Also lurking throughout was 32 year old Australian, Adam Scott, who is by many, regarded as the greatest swinger of the club in modern golf. Scott has been on golf’s leading stage since turning professional as a 19 year old. In the ensuing years, the quietly spoken and universally liked Scott, has won 9 times on the PGA Tour and 20 times around the world. He has also been mentored by Norman (who finished second three times in the Masters, most famously losing a 7 shot lead to Nick Faldo in the final round in 1996) and is universally regarded as the ‘Best Player Who Hasn’t Won A Major’ (another label no-one would want).

Typically, Scott played from tee to green better than anyone else in the field, consistently hitting great shots and yet burning the edges of the holes on his putts.

Playing impeccable golf, Scott made his move by making birdies on the back-9 par-5, 13 and 15, to stand at 8 under par going into the last hole.

After Day made careless bogies on the 16th and 17 holes, Scott and Cabrera were tied at 8 under par. When Day made par on the last hole to finish the tournament at 7 under par, that would leave only Scott and Cabrera with the opportunity to triumph.

Scott got lucky with his drive on the 18th hole when it finished a foot short of going in bunker that guards the left side of the 18th fairway. He then hit a beautiful 8 iron twenty feet right of the hole. This was the same position Phil Mickelson that had hit his second shot to, before making the putt for his first Major win, in 2004.

Scott made the putt to the thunderous applause of the gallery. The normally reserved Scott, roared “Aussie, Aussie” as he celebrated what was about to become Australia’s first victory in golf’s greatest Championship.

Except for one thing.  After hitting his drive in the middle of the fairway, Cabrera would have a chance to tie Scott at 9 under par if he could somehow make a birdie on Augusta’s iconic 18th hole.

He did. Cabrera hit a perfect approach to 3 feet and calmly made his birdie putt. And this most surely would be another occasion that an Australian would be “snake bit” at the Masters, right?

The first playoff hole was the 18th again. Both players made a par. Each player played perfect tee shots on the second playoff hole, the dog-left, and par-4, 10th. Cabrera played a beautiful approach to 20 feet below the hole while Scott played an equally skilled shot, 18 feet to the right of the hole. Cabrera’s putt went around the back of the hole before excruciatingly balancing on the back edge. He would tap in for a par leaving the stage, to Scott.

Somehow, exorcising all the Demons that had gone not only before him but all Australians at this most sacred of events, Scott’s putt was true, and found the center of the hole.

And in that instant, a country wept. With joy.

After 77 years the drought was over. If ever a win in golf was celebrated by an entire Nation, this would be the occasion.