Were it not for a remarkable piece of bad luck, Tiger Woods, the five-time winner of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, might also be a five-time Masters champion.
But golf tournaments can turn on a bounce here or there, known in golf parlance as rub of the green. Woods knows that all too well. Just look how he rallied to win the 2012 Memorial Tournament, chipping in on the 16th hole in the final round for a birdie that allowed him surge past Rory Sabbatini.
The 77th Masters Tournament ended up with a deserving winner, nonetheless. Australia’s Adam Scott birdied the second hole of a sudden death playoff to defeat Argentina’s Angel Cabrera to win his first major championship and Australia’s first green jacket.
Both men birdied the 72nd hole to finish at 9-under-par 279, Scott from 20 feet and Cabrera, the 2009 Masters winner, from 3 feet.
Woods could only lament what might have been as he finished tied for fourth place at 5-under 283. He knows exactly where he lost four shots that could have gotten him into a playoff. During Friday’s second round, Woods hit his third shot approach into the 15th green a bit too perfectly. It hit the flagstick and bounced back into the water. Instead of a tap-in birdie, he made a bogey. He later was assessed a two-shot penalty when it was discovered that he made an improper drop following the water ball.
"We all get good breaks and bad ones, but that one was right up there (as a bad break)," Woods said.
Scott finally got a good break. Or, rather, he made his own good fortune. Last year at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, England, Scott bogeyed the final four holes of the tournament and ended up losing by a stroke to Ernie Els. For Els, the 2003 Memorial winner, it was his second Open title and fourth major championship.
Though crushed by the stinging setback, Scott didn’t fold, and showed real resolve in winning his ninth PGA TOUR title and holding off Cabrera, who also owns a victory in the 2007 U.S. Open.
Scott also made up for numerous disappointments that Australian players have encountered at the Masters. No Australian had ever won, though they had come close. Runner-up finishes have been posted through the years by Bruce Crampton and Greg Norman, with the two-time Memorial winner Norman suffering particular disappointment in the 1996 Masters. Just two years ago, Scott and Jason Day, who now lives in Columbus, tied for second behind Charl Schwartzel.
"I can’t explain what happened. I felt my way today. I found my way around somehow," said Scott, 32, who shot a final-round 69. "I tried not to think about anything today. Australia is a proud sporting nation, and this is one notch in the belt that we had never gotten. That it came down to me … is incredible."
Day ended up third two shots out of the playoff, while Woods was next with another Australian, Marc Leishman. Els, who missed the Masters last year, shot a 1-under 287 to tie for 13th place along with 1998 Memorial winner Fred Couples. Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk, who won at Muirfield Village in 2011 and ’02, respectively, also finished in the top 25.