An Aussie finally Masters it at Augusta
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Greg Norman almost couldn’t stand to watch. The Great White Shark had circled around the elusive green jacket too many times without being able to wear it.
Pam Scott was on the other side of the world, trying to catch every agonizing moment.
Norman’s close calls lurked in the memories of so many Australians on Monday. They woke up, nervously turned on the TV or radio or went online and discovered Adam Scott was still going strong at the Masters.
No Australian had worn the famous green jacket, although Norman and Scott had been among the handful of Aussies to finish runner-up.
Pam Scott was home with her daughter in Queensland state, watching her 32-year-old son on TV, knowing that generations of people were willing him on, desperate for another big fish in Australian golf.
“We leaped in the air,” she said. “We were sitting on the bed all morning from four o’clock and couldn’t contain ourselves. It was just such a relief.”
It was the kind of relief that cascaded across the nation. Shouts of “You little bewdy” (beauty) echoed through usually quiet suburban streets. Commuters whooped and hollered on buses on their way into work. The prime minister was interrupted during a radio interview on the national broadcaster for an update from Augusta National.
“Butterflies doesn’t cut it,” Pam Scott told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. of the gut-wrenching final holes. “It was hard work this morning. You never know until the last putt drops.”
Adam Scott defied the pressure, a picture of poise as he sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole to beat Angel Cabrera in a playoff as darkness descended, setting off jubilation on the course and thousands of miles away in Australia.
Two other Australians — Jason Day and Marc Leishman — were in the top five at the start of play: Day held the lead at one stage before finishing in third place; Leishman tied for fourth with Tiger Woods.
Horns honked in morning traffic. Yells could be heard from households in tightly packed neighborhoods. People talked about knowing, in years to come, exactly where they were when Scott won.
Shopkeepers at Peregian Beach, near a resort course designed by Adam’s father, Phil Scott, spoke of the pride of having a Masters champion from their neck of the woods. Phil Scott was with his son at Augusta.
At the Kooralbyn International School in the Gold Coast hinterland, where Scott spent his final three high school years before graduating in 1997, former schoolmasters remembered him as a “tall, skinny, string-bean sort of fellow.”
“But you could see he was determined,” school principal Geoff Mills told Fairfax Media. “He was determined back then and he hasn’t lost that grit and determination you need — not just for sport, but for life in general.”
Like Norman, Jack Newton is an Australian who knows what it’s like to be a Masters runner-up. He tied for second behind Seve Ballesteros in 1980.
Unlike Norman, a wealthy businessman who was in Florida keeping track of Scott’s progress, Newton was in outback New South Wales state for a junior golf clinic. He watched the final round on a motel TV in rural Forbes.
“It’s a wonder you didn’t hear my yelling in Queensland,” Newton said. “I’ve got to say when I looked at the leaderboard ... I thought ‘you bloody beauty.’ The 100-pound gorilla is gone.”
Scott and Norman share an affinity, and the connection was evident after the tournament in comments by both.
Scott thought he had won his first major title when he made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole of regulation. He was sitting in the scoring room waiting for Cabrera to finish in the final group when the Argentine produced his own great shot to force a playoff.
“The golf gods can’t be this cruel to Australia,” Norman said in a text message to friends who were watching.
Eventually, the gods smiled on Scott. And he was beaming.
“Australia is a proud sporting nation, and this is one notch in the belt we never got,” Scott said. “It’s amazing that it came down to me today. But there’s one guy who inspired a nation of golfers, and that’s Greg Norman. He’s been incredible to me and all the great golfers. Part of this belongs to him.”
Jack Nicklaus shot a 30 on the back nine in 1986 to take the green jacket from Norman. The following year, Larry Mize chipped in from 140 feet during a playoff to leave Norman second. In 1996, the Shark blew a six-shot lead to finish behind Nick Faldo.
“I’m over the moon. Sitting there watching Adam, I had a tear in my eye. That’s what it was all about. It was Adam doing it for himself, and for the country,” Norman told The Associated Press by phone from his Florida home. Norman was so nervous watching on TV that he went to the gym before returning to see the last four holes.
“I can only imagine how everyone else felt when I was playing,” Norman said.
Scott had his share of disappointments, none more than the British Open last year. He bogeyed the last four holes to lose by a shot to Ernie Els. Some wondered if the setback would haunt Scott for his career.
Tom Watson, who missed the cut at Augusta this year, tweeted: “You showed great courage Adam ... and resiliency from last year’s disappointment at Lytham.”
Athletes from other sports took to social networks to praise Scott, whose achievement is now touted as one of the best in a country that prides itself on its grit in international sports.
The victory drew plenty of chatter on talk radio, callers looking to place this moment in the hierarchy of Australian sports: the America’s Cup victory in 1983 that ended a 132-year American victory streak in the historic sailing event; Cathy Freeman’s win in the 400 meters at the Sydney Olympics; Pat Cash’s unexpected win at Wimbledon in 1987.
Newton has no illusions about the importance of this one.
“I was so pleased when the putt went in,” Newton said. “I thought the way he won it would put a few demons to bed.”
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this story from Augusta, Ga.
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