“It’s sad someone had to lose.” You’ll hear that a lot after the remarkable ending we saw Sunday at Augusta. Given the way that Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera played, it’s more than sad. It’s cruel. That’s why I’ve always been opposed to sudden-death playoffs. When two men tie, they should hold the trophy jointly. When there’s a tie in the Kentucky Derby, they don’t go back and run a 50-yard dash. When there’s a tie in the World Heavyweight Championship, they don’t go back and box for ten seconds. A golf tournament is advertised as 72 holes. So how can you settle it over just one? I’m sorry, it’s too cruel. Especially the way they played!
These tournaments mean so much, personally and professionally. I’ve been second many, many times, and nobody will remember any of my runner-up finishes. Angel Cabrera tied for first, but years on we’ll forget. That’s the tragedy: He was a fraction of a fraction of a percentage point away from winning — which came in extra holes — and no one will remember. Golf is a tough game. Look at Tiger Woods. He lost by four shots, and he was basically penalized by four strokes on a single hole, for hitting a perfect shot. If his third shot on the par-5 15th on Friday does not hit the pin, then it does not ricochet into the water, and he might have tied for the Masters lead after 72 holes, at 9-under. That’s how exacting our game is.
Still, I’m thrilled for Adam Scott’s first major victory. A golf swing that beautiful deserves a green jacket. More than that, he is a thorough gentleman. Adam played for me on three Presidents Cup teams, and I can say that he’s a wonderful young man. It was devastating to watch him blow the British Open last year. That’s a terrible thing to live with. People will say that it only took him two majors to get over it, but that misses the point. It’s the following months, days and minutes that are always with you, not just in the majors. I’m glad he has that burden off his back. He’s carried it long enough. He’s a terrific young man to be called Masters champion.
When I look back at this week, I’ll remember Scott for his victory and for bringing the first green jacket home to the great sporting nation of Australia. But he’ll have to share the stage with Guan Tianlang. What Guan did this week is the most impressive thing I’ve seen in my 60 years in professional golf, both in terms of his play and his demeanor: A boy of 14 making the cut — despite that dreaded penalty stroke for slow play on Friday, and handling it like someone three times his age! It heartens me to know that the future of golf is in such hands. I’ve used the same word all week to describe it, and I’ll say it one last time: It’s a miracle what that boy did. Then again, so much at Augusta is.
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