April 11, 2009

Prime Time Action

With daylight fading, Angel Cabrera executed better than playoff competitors Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell

After two pars in the sudden-death playoff, Angel Cabrera had reason to celebrate.

After two pars in the sudden-death playoff, Angel Cabrera had reason to celebrate.

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Just before 7 p.m. local time Sunday, Angel Cabrera of Argentina and Americans Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry returned to the par-4 18th tee to settle the 73rd Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. The 48-year-old Perry seemed to have his first major championship in hand, but bogeyed the final two holes and squandered a two-stroke advantage.

Leaving nothing to chance, tournament officials rolled the 18th green to mat down spike marks. It marked the 14th playoff in Masters history and the eighth since sudden death was introduced.

The 34-year-old Campbell, who closed with a 3-under-par 69 to catch Cabrera (71) and Perry (71) at 12-under 276, teed off first and found the fairway. Cabrera, the only member of the threesome who owned a major title -- the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont -- pushed his drive into the trees and pine straw on the right. Perry, whose previous drive at 18 wound up in a fairway bunker, dug deep and split the fairway.

Hoping for a miracle, the 39-year-old Cabrera tried to punch a l ow shot through the trees, but didn't make it, the ball caroming off a pine tree. He was fortunate the ball bounced into the fairway, about 10 yards short of the green.

Perry was next, but his 8-iron came up short, right of the green. That seemed to leave the door wide open for Campbell, but he couldn't deliver, his 7-iron approach catching the front-right bunker.

Cabrera played a fine third shot six feet past the hole, while Perry almost chipped in and recorded the first par.

Knowing he needed at least a par to stay in contention for the green jacket, Campbell blasted four feet past the hole and missed his par attempt, the ball sliding right.

"Great bunker shot, bad putt," Campbell said. "I just left the blade open."

Cabrera and Perry moved to the 495-yard par-4 10th hole, a downhill, dogleg leg left. Both players drove safely, but Perry pulled his second shot left of the green. Cabrera played a bold shot to the front left pin and his ball finished about 15 feet below the cup.

Perry had a clear third shot, but his chip ran 18 feet beyond the hole. When his par putt missed, Cabrera made history, two-putting for par to become the first Argentine to capture the Masters. Countryman Robert DeVicenzo thought he had won the 1968 Masters, but signed an incorrect scorecard and Bob Goalby became the champion.

"When I won the U.S. Open, he gave me a nice picture with a green jacket in it," said Cabrera, who was serenaded by his fans at the 10th green.

Afterward at the awards ceremony, he dedicated the victory to his wife and two children. Trevor Immelman, the 2008 champion, helped put on his new green jacket.

"This is the dream of every great golfer," Cabrera said. "I'm so emotional, I can barely talk."

Perry was gracious in defeat.

"I'm not going to hang my head," he said. "It was a blast for me to fight with them."

Mark Soltau is a contributing editor to Golf Digest and the editor of TigerWoods.com.