Posted: 2:38 p.m. Monday, April 15, 2013
By Brendan Porath
At the start of the week, the anticipation and hype heading into the 2013 Masters hit a high for recent major championships, but no one could have predicted the events of the four days that followed. Here are the winners, losers and some highlights from the week at Augusta.
Adam Scott -- The 32-year-old finally broke his own majors drought and the Australian curse at Augusta, draining two career-defining putts on No. 18 in regulation and No. 10 in the playoff. Scott won his first PGA Tour event a decade ago, and one year later, he won the unofficial 5th major in golf, the Players Championship. He was tabbed as the next big thing in golf, and a definite majors winner to follow Greg Norman. It didn't go as planned, and the Aussie regressed in his late twenties as he searched for a reliable putting stroke. He was completely off the map when Norman chose him as a captain's pick for the 2009 Preisdents Cup. By the numbers, he didn't belong on the team or in the same class as the group of international and American stars competing at that time.
But Scott said on Sunday that week was the start of his road back to world-class form, with Norman's inclusion resetting his confidence as one of the best on the planet, and the face of Australian golf. He started popping up on the first page of leaderboards on a regular basis again, and picked up his first WGC title in Akron. The rebound appeared to be complete at last year's Open Championship, but Scott collapsed in the final five holes, one of the more significant gags in majors history.
Less than a year later, he's the Masters champion, eclipsing his second-place finish two-years ago to finally win it for Australia. This shouldn't be a one-off thing now, either, as Scott has been close at all the majors throughout his career. Finally breaking through and still only 32, there should be multiple major titles in his future.
Angel Cabrera -- El Pato is a relatively unknown golfer in the states, despite already winning the U.S. Open and Masters. He's another veteran who spent time off the map, working through injuries that included having many of his teeth replaced. His profile should be much higher, given his personality, waddle, and the way he blasts his ball and quickly moves on to the next shot (unless he's tossed his club in exasperation). Cabrera was No. 269 in the world at the start of the week, and it's likely he continues to cash in on his lifetime Masters invite to pop up and contend at Augusta again.
The only two PGA Tour wins in his career are majors, and this was the second time in the past three years he was in the final group on Sunday at Augusta. Standing in the 18th fairway, he knew he needed to get a birdie to match the putt of Scott ahead of him. And the Duck hit perhaps the best approach shot on No. 18 in Masters history, sticking it within five feet of the traditional Sunday pin placement to force the playoff. Two perfectly-played extra holes later, Cabrera shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and gave the new winner a big hug. It was an impressive and fun Sunday to watch.
Tianlang Guan -- The 14-year-old amateur from China was the focus of all the media stories on Monday at Augusta, checking that box early while he was out practicing and before all the big boys started providing content. But Guan hung around, starting with his impressive final putt on Thursday, and became one of the key headliners in a crazy weekend. His slow-play penalty on Friday ignited a rules debate that was promptly eclipsed by some more significant rules drama. At 14-years-old, he was the youngest entrant ever in the Masters, and then became the youngest ever to get to the weekend after sweating it out as the 10-shot rule cut line shifted. In addition, and perhaps most impressive, he was the low amateur for the week, edging out the American and Euro college stars as the only am to make the cut and win the Silver Cup. Most of these teenage phenoms register for only a week or month, but it seems Guan could have staying power.
Stevie Williams -- Tiger's former caddie is the first to "win" a major since the pair had their messy break-up. The fact that Scott could not see in the relative darkness and needed a read on the winning putt will only add to Stevie's willingness to talk to the press about himself. He called Scott's winning birdie putt the "highlight of my career", one that took off on the back of Tiger's brilliance. He's a pretty insufferable goon, but he walks away a winner.
Tiger Woods -- The No. 1 player in the world started the week as an overwhelming favorite to win his first major since 2008. He'd been in contention in other places since, but in earnest, this was his best chance to end that drought. The ascension back to No. 1 last month set everything up, a game in form, the putter working, and control of a Sean Foley re-designed swing.
But Tiger could not break 70 this week, and he leaves Augusta for the eighth straight year without a win -- a stretch that's featured seven finishes inside the top six. He went off-script with his putter and struggled with distance control into the greens, unable to maintain the recent form.
Of the seven close calls at Augusta since his last Masters win, this will certainly be the most memorable, thanks to a potential four-shot swing on a wedge that hit the pin at No. 15 on Friday. The drama in the middle of the tourney adds to the disappointment, as it was the second time since January that Tiger simply misunderstood or forgot the rules. The requests for Woods to DQ himself quelled throughout Saturday and with two days now passed, there doesn't seem to be too many commentators still reiterating that he now has a "dark cloud" over the rest of his career because he played on. Even with that critique abating, Woods leaves Augusta in frustration, with the "Is he back?" debate likely to rage on until the U.S. Open at Merion, where once again he'll be the heavy favorite.
Brandt Snedeker -- It was an ugly Sunday finish for Snedeker. He started the 2013 season playing better golf than anyone on the planet, backing up his $10 million FedExCup title last fall. Snedeker is considered one of the best putters in the game, and he got that club rolling Saturday afternoon to come in with a share of the 54-hole lead. He started Sunday as a favorite and the narrative of his redemption from 2008, when he broke down talking to the media, was prewritten. But his putter, along with everything else, was way off on Sunday in a final round 75 where he was out of contention before leaving Amen Corner. He'll be in contention at another major again soon, but Sunday is an addition to his recent struggles at the biggest events -- tumbling from the top of the board at 2012 British and an inconsistent showing at the Ryder Cup.
Rory McIlroy -- The former No. 1 in the world continued his underwhelming play this year, hitting it all over the course during his four-day stay. Rory was off the first page of the leaderboard for most of the week, and a disastrous third-round 79 removed all hope. He was never really a story this week, but the questions about his ability to adapt to his new Nike equipment will persist until he finds some semblance of the game that pushed him to the top of the world rankings.
Phil Mickelson -- Perhaps the most surprising result of the week -- only four players who made the cut finished with a worse number than Phil (+9). The three-time Masters champ started the week saying he was "nervous" about his preparation coming into Augusta, still griping about the PGA Tour schedule which did not set up well for him to play the prior week's event (his preferred routine). Rounds of 76 and 77 in the middle of the tourney quickly dropped him down the board, preventing the chance of the Sunday rally that Phil's always capable of at Augusta. At 42, Phil's approaching the sunset of his career, with fewer opportunities to win majors. And this was a wasted year at Augusta, his best annual shot.
It's rare for the tournament to not have that big moment, where everything swings, to occur on a Sunday, or at least the weekend, but yeah...
A lot to choose from here. The biggest shot of the week has to be El Pato's approach into 18. As for the best shot, let's take Jamie Donaldon's ace at No. 6, a par-3 that's had only six holes-in-one in the 76 years of the Masters.
Even more to choose from here. Let's review:
But nothing compares to dear old Ian Woosnam's iron shot down in Amen Corner. This lowered the bar right at the start of the tournament, and no one matched:
Goes to the kid with a shirt of a giant tiger on it strategically placed on No. 16. Worst patron goes to the Chris Farley-sounding fellow who was heard repeatedly shouting "Redonkulous" after several drives on Saturday.
Adam Scott's golf high-five on No. 18 with Stevie, as chronicled here in this excellent photo essay.
Congrats to Scott on winning what was certainly one of the wildest and most entertaining majors weeks in recent memory. See you at Merion, Tiger!