LUCK OF THE DUCK?: Angel Cabrera birdied three of his last seven holes in regulation, made a crazy par on the first playoff hole, then a routine par on the second playoff hole to top Kenny Perry to win the 73rd Masters. Cabrera is the 15th person to win both the U.S. Open and Masters.
El Patos play at the first playoff hole wasnt exactly what he had in mind but he found a way to manage par. Think about it, Cabrera hit two terrible shots (a drive into the trees and a second bounced off a tree but into the fairway), followed it with two great ones (a wedge from 114 yards to 6 feet and a converted putt) and ultimately walked away with a green jacket. You could say that Cabrera won by hanging around long enough and getting lucky breaks or you could say he mounted a gutsy comeback with two holes to play, by remaining calm, steady, and gritty. Either way, you'd be correct.
SHOWCASED SHOWDOWN: In the pairing the whole world had been waiting for, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson played together in the final round of the Masters. It was just that the two, seemingly out of contention at the start of Sunday, teed of an hour before the leaders. Mickelson birdied six holes in a front-nine 30, but hiccups at 12, 15, 17 and 18 put a damper on a 67. Woods made a move with birdies at 13, 15 and 16 but made bogey at 17 and 18 to shoot 68.
The undercard turned out to be the main event. At least for a major portion of the afternoon, and perhaps, in terms of heart palpitations. With Lefty going berserk out of the gates and Woods responding with an eagle on No. 8, the place became electric with patrons 20-deep buzzing and the leaders behind, sweating the new turn of events. But, for as much drama as the duo induced, it all ended with a resounding thud as they struggled to cross the finish-line. It's hard to say whether Mickelson or Woods was more guilty of letting another green jacket slip through his fingers, but golf fans finally got their guilty pleasure fulfilled.
KENNY PERRY: After hitting an 8-iron beautifully to set up a kick-in birdie on 16, Kenny Perry's first green jacket was well within reach. With a two-shot lead and two holes to play, the 48-year-old was about to become the oldest major champion, even as his playing partner, Cabrera, curled in a downhill 10-footer for a birdie on the same hole to stay in it. However, at No. 17, Perry's wheels started to come off as he hit a 6-iron long and had to chip through the front of the green for bogey. At 18, he hit his tee shot into a bunker and couldnt manage the 15-foot par save. And on the first playoff hole, he flubbed it short and right.
Usually, when you 'hit the shot of your life,' it leads to a victory. But for Perry, No. 16 was the beginning of the end. With his last two holes, the U.S. Ryder Cupper could have sealed the deal with a par on either of them in regulation, yet he bogeyed both. And the first playoff hole was more of the same. Fans will remember Perry in this Masters as they would a Greg Norman or Scott Hoch. But hopefully, they won't forget the refreshing grace and honesty he demonstrated the entire tournament, even in loss. It's just unfortunate that the great 'shot of his life,' might have also been Perry's last shot at greatness.
ROARING BACK: After a couple years of criticism for taking the fun out of the Masters, Augusta National officials responded with a course setup that produced roars from the beginning of the tournament on Thursday steadily through Sundays conclusion.
Kudos to the green jackets for new Sunday pin placements at Nos. 6 and 17, the later which turned out to be a major factor. It seems as if, at least for now, that we have our fun major back and it sure feels good. Padraig Harrington called it the most gracious setup hes ever seen at the National. Cooperation from Mother Nature didnt hurt either.
BITTER MAJOR FACE: 'I don't like it, to tell you the truth. I don't think it's fair. It's too tricky... It's too much of a guessing game,' Sergio Garcia told Golf Channel Sunday night after finishing tied for 38th at the Masters. Asked what could be done to the course to suit his fancy, El Nino responded curtly, 'I don't care. They (Masters Committee) can do whatever they want. It's not my problem. I just come here and play and then go home. That's about it. Besides a second round 67, Garcia didn't even challenge for contention in this one. And his ostensible break-through with the flatstick last year in his well-documented work with Stan Utley, seemed to disappear with the appearance of a belly putter on Thursday ' and with his reactionary histrionics of disbelief and frustration.
Another major, another bunch of sour grapes to add to Sergio's growing whine rack. Rarely graceful in defeat, this time the Spaniard felt the need to criticize the course that Bobby Jones built. While he didn't directly use the excuse to explain his poor finish this time, it was implicit in the pointing of his finger away from himself. Now, 0-for-42 in majors, this latest grumbling goes filed with all the others: bad bounces, fate, slow play, his pairing, the weather, not getting 'Tiger's lucky breaks...', etc. The former Michelob beer spokesman better warm up that bitter face for Bethpage Black. The red-blooded American galleries in New York will be more than happy to give him a taste of his own medicine.
LOW COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN 'I think I might have retired too soon,' said a 73-year-old Gary Player with a laugh after shooting 6-over par 78 on Thursday. After 52 Masters appearances, the South African was pleased to break 80 on his way out. Fuzzy Zoeller, also appearing for the last time in the field, broke 80. Meanwhile, 50-somethings Greg Norman, Sandy Lyle and Larry Mize turned back the clock with low numbers of their own. The latter two even making the cut ' and finishing T-20 and T-30, respectively, for the tournament.
In his final farewell, the Black Knight left us with some fun memories ' from his hole-in-one in the Par 3 Contest Wednesday to his genuflecting kiss of the hallowed Augusta ground before heading to the clubhouse one final time Friday afternoon. Meanwhile, Fuzzy left us with warm feelings ' and hopefully forgiveness. And Larry and Lyle played like, well, spring chickens ' inspiring hope and invoking nostalgia in April among the azaleas. But perhaps nostalgia is where Norman's legacy will always reside. Maybe it was best that the Shark departed the waters early this time, to avoid any more unnecessary blood-letting. Besides, someone else was waiting to grab the heartbreak baton.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Shingo Katayama finished alone in fourth place, the best finish ever for a Japanese golfer at Augusta National. Rory McIlroy, 19, one third of the Little Big 3 along with Danny Lee, 17, and Ryo Ishikawa, 17, was the low teen for the week, closing with five back-nine birdies on Sunday to finish T-20. Anthony Kim got into the Masters record books with an 11 birdie peformance during Fridays second round.
Augusta National Chairman Billy Payne might want to add logoed cowboy hats to the Masters merchandise shop for Shingos next visit to Augusta National The 17th-ranked player in the world, McIlroy had a solid major as a first-timer despite a controversial ending to his second round on Friday. And it had nothing to do with any Augusta National grooming policies. A look at AKs scorecard shows that of the 72 holes that Kim played, he posted just 32 pars, and the other 40 holes were either birdies, bogeys or worse. That said, the new magic number of 11 is what we'd like to see on a commemorative swarovski-diamond belt buckle for the swash-buckling young gun.