The Masters Tournament conclusion was worth the wait in so many ways.
The season’s first major championship was plagued by too many unpopular rulings and not enough of the roars we’ve grown accustomed to for three-and-a-half days before it finally erupted to a rousing crescendo on everybody’s favorite back nine on Sunday.
Adam Scott was brilliant in the rain – reacting with equal unbridled fervor to not one but two “winning” birdie putts on the last green of regulation and the second playoff hole.
But deserving equal praise is runner-up Angel Cabrera, whose 7-iron right at the flag on the 72nd hole was one of the best climactic counter-punches you’ll ever see in a major after one guy has already delivered a supposed knockout punch right in front of you. Cabrera was so good at the end, he had three potential winning shots drift fractionally past the cup in his last four holes starting at 17 in regulation.
Both players kept up the pristine blows despite the weather conditions and tense circumstances in the playoff, giving each other thumbs up after solid shots into the 10th green where so often one player stumbles in the playoff and cedes the green jacket to par.
Golf fans in the end got the thrilling Masters they’ve come to expect and Australia got the green jacket it deserved after being so cruelly denied through the years.
Scott is, as Cabrera said, “a truthful champion” and a feel-good story with the birdies of his life at the end.
“I’ll look forward to getting that letter from the chairman that I’m too old to play,” said the beaming Scott.
But in an annual tradition like so many others, here are a few more Birdies & Bogeys from the 2013 Masters:
BIRDIE: Angel Cabrera. The 2009 champ from Argentina finished second with heroic style and a touch of class, giving Scott a thumbs up in playoff fairway and a gracious hug at the end. He left proud.
BOGEY: Rory McIlroy. Once again he had a self-immolating stretch, going 8-over on his last 11 holes Friday to fall out of the top 10. The scars keep piling up at Augusta.
PAR: Tiger Woods. If his perfect shot doesn’t hit pin on 15 Friday and lead to all kinds of trouble, there may have been no stopping him. Instead, his frustrating major-less streak is approaching the five-year mark.
BIRDIE: Tianlang Guan. Forget the slow-play penalty for a minute (that’s too long), the Chinese eighth-grader was simply remarkable in making the cut on sheer short-game determination. Bravo kid.
BOGEY: Ireland. McIlroy was the highlight as Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and amateur Alan Dunbar missed the cut and Darren Clarke (hamstring) didn’t even start.
BIRDIE: Australia. The formally cursed land Down Under led after 18 (Marc Leishman), 36 (Jason Day) and finally 72 holes, with three guys finishing in top four. Day once again showed he’ll be a consistent threat.
BOGEY: Brandt Snedeker. Sunday as the co-leader was a bad time for his putting touch to abandon him. He gets those nerves settled, he’ll eventually win at a club he says feels like home.
BIRDIE: Steve Williams. Scott credited his caddie with “unbelievable read” on the winning putt. Stevie’s fourth Masters win (three with Tiger) on the bag moves him within one of the record shared by former Augusta National caddies Pappy Stokes (Picard, Harmon, Hogan twice and Burke) and Willie Peterson (Nicklaus).
BOGEY: Phil Mickelson. With his Frankenwood. three-time champ only broke par (barely) once and was whinier than most about course conditions.
PAR: Bubba Watson. Never a factor after serving mac & cheese and grilled chicken to fellow champs, but he rallied to sneak into weekend field.
BIRDIE: Matt Kuchar. Yellow Jacket keeps lurking around lead long enough, me might just stumble into Bobby Jones’ green jacket sometime.
BOGEY: Sergio Garcia. Nothing wrong with T8, but try not to say this while sitting next to member after shooting 66: “It’s obviously not my favorite, my most favorite place, but you know, we try to enjoy it as much as we can each time we come here.” Big of you.
BIRDIE: Brian Gay. Former Louisville (Ga.) resident made the cut this time and thrilled local family and friends by hanging on leaderboard most of the first round.
BOGEY: Dustin Johnson. He was 7-under through 31 holes then went bogey-double-par-bogey-double to disappear on Friday. He should be better than that at Augusta.
BIRDIE: PGA Tour winners. Masters chairman Billy Payne delivered great news when he opted to maintain invitations to expanded slate of tournament winners, trimming spots elsewhere to keep field intimate.
BOGEY: Russell Henley. Despite fighting back from opening double bogey, the Macon-bred Bulldog just never looked comfortable missing cut between the Georgia pines. But he’s young.
BIRDIE: Thorbjorn Olesen. Remember the name folks. Gifted Danish rookie finished T6 despite an opening 78. He’ll be back.
BOGEY: Hunter Mahan. After 76-82, it’s time to drop this Golf Boy from the favorites list until he delivers further notice.
DOUBLE EAGLE: Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore. The former Secretary of State was ubiquitous – playing with Mickelson, greeting patrons at Berckmans Place, parading on the range – but seeing both female members roaming the grounds in green jackets seemed so normal by week’s end.
BOGEY: Slow players. As unfortunate as it was to see a 14-year-old kid have to sweat the cut for doing something pros do all the time, a message was FINALLY sent to pick up the pace or risk the consequences.
BIRDIE: Junior golf. If a 14-year-old low amateur wasn’t enough, Augusta National is now inviting 7-year-olds to Drive, Chip & Putt Championship next year. How cool is that?
BOGEY: Competition committee. The Tiger Woods drop fiasco was mishandled in many ways, but letting it marinate four hours worldwide before openly addressing questions with an explanation didn’t help matters. Quicker action means better containment.
BIRDIE: CBS and ESPN. This many eyes haven’t watched the Masters since Tiger’s grand slam finale in 2001, with 44.3 million watching on the weekend. That’s just CBS. Imagine the numbers in Australia.
BOGEY: Classic chicken. As excited as we all were to see the return of a green-wrapped favorite, the new recipe is as original as Coke Classic but with far less flavor. Please spice it up like you did the pimento cheese.