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Associated Press, Published April 14 2013

Scott tops Cabrera in playoff to win Masters

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Adam Scott finished the job this time, and put an end to more than a half-century of Australian misery at the Masters.

With the two biggest putts of his career, Scott holed a 20-footer for birdie on the 18th hole of regulation that put him into a playoff with Angel Cabrera, and then won his first major championship Sunday with a 12-footer for birdie on the second extra hole.

“We like to think we’re the best at everything. Golf is a big sport at home, and this is the one thing in golf we hadn’t been able to achieve,” Scott said. “It’s amazing that it’s my destiny to be the first Australian to win. It’s incredible.”

Scott leaned back and thrust his arms in the air after the putt dropped on the 10th hole, a celebration for all of Australia and personal redemption for himself.

It was only last summer when Scott threw away the British Open by making bogey on his last four holes to lose by one shot to Ernie Els. The 32-year-old handled that crushing defeat with dignity and pledged to finish stronger given another chance. “Next time – I’m sure there will be a next time – I can do a better job of it,” he said that day.

Scott was close to perfect, and he had to be with Cabrera delivering some brilliance of his own.

Moments after Scott made his 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a 3-under 69 to take a one-shot lead – “C’mon, Aussie!” he screamed – Cabrera answered.

Cabrera had an approach that plopped down 3 feet from the cup, one of the greatest shots under the circumstances. That gave him an easy birdie and a 2-under 70. They finished at 9-under 279.

They both chipped close for par on the 18th in the first playoff hole, and Cabrera’s 15-foot birdie putt on the 10th grazed the right side of the cup.

With his long putter anchored against his chest, Scott’s putt was true all the way. The Masters had been the only major that never had a champion use a long putter. Scott’s win means four of the last six major champions used a putter pressed against their belly or chest, a stroke that might be banned in 2016.

What mattered more to Scott was that the Masters had been the only major an Australian had never won. He was among dozens of golfers who routinely rose in the early hours of Monday morning for the telecast, only to watch a horror show. The leading character was Greg Norman, who had four good chances to win, none better than when he blew a six-shot lead on the last day to Nick Faldo in 1996.

There was Jim Ferrier in 1952 and Bruce Crampton 20 years later. Scott and Jason Day tied for second just two years ago. Norman, though, was the face of Aussie failures at the Masters, and Scott paid him tribute in Butler Cabin before he slipped on that beautiful green jacket.

“Australian is a proud sporting nation, and this is one notch in the belt we never got,” Scott said. “It’s amazing that it came down to me today. But there’s one guy who inspired a nation of golfers, and that’s Greg Norman. He’s been incredible to me and all the great golfers. Part of this belongs to him.”

Scott was just as gracious in victory as he was last summer at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He and Cabrera flashed a thumbs-up to each other after their shots into the 10th hole in the playoff, and they walked off the 10th green with their arms around each other when it was over.

“Such is golf,” Cabrera said. “Adam is a good winner.”

It was a riveting conclusion to a week filled with some awkward moments. There was the one-shot penalty called against 14-year-old Guan Tianlang that nearly kept the Chinese teen from becoming the youngest player to make the cut. There was the illegal drop by Tiger Woods, who was given a two-shot penalty over questions and confusion about why he was not disqualified for signing an incorrect card.

And at the end, there was shot-making at its finest.

Scott didn’t make a bogey after the first hole, and he really didn’t miss a shot the rest of the day on a rainy Sunday at Augusta. He just couldn’t get a putt to fall until it really mattered. Then, he made two of them.

Day closed with a 70, his second close call at the Masters in three years. This one hurt far more because he had a two-shot lead when he stepped to the 16th tee.

He ran off three bold birdies down the stretch – getting up-and-down from the back bunker on the 13th, a 10-foot putt on the 14th, and capitalizing on a break at No. 15 when his drive ricocheted out of the trees into the fairways, allowing him to reach the green in two.