After 41 years, Argentina has finally redeemed itself in golf. In 1968, the Argentine golfer Roberto De Vincenzo signed off a wrong score on his scorecard, missing an opportunity to enter the playoffs and win the green jacket, the traditional prize at the Masters. In 2009, another Argentine, Angel Cabrera, defeated Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell in a three-way, two-hole playoff, a last spectacle in the already-electric Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club.
Initially, the final players received little attention; the crowd focused on an epic playoff between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the number 1 and number 2 players in the world, respectively. It was their first game in 8 years. Amidst the frenzied cheers of the crowd, the two players moved up the leaderboard—Mickelson began hitting birdie after birdie, and Woods, after a shaky start, made eagle on the par-5 eighth. The crowd remained with the two even while the tournament’s final contenders played for the jacket. In the end, Woods finished with two bogeys and left at 8-under, some four strokes behind the three leaders – Cabrera, Perry, and Campbell. Mickelson finished at 9-under.
The day may have belonged to Woods and Mickelson, but the evening would belong to the final contenders in the playoffs. Perry was ready to make a bid as the oldest winner of a major. He went 22 consecutive holes without a bogey, leaving him with a 2-shot lead and two holes to play. He seemed primed to slip into the green jacket, but when his last two shots bogeyed, he was forced into a three-way playoff with Cabrera and Campbell.
As the sun retreated, the crowd surged toward the last three players. The roars were deafening. Cabrera’s first playoff tee landed behind a tree, and when he tried to hit through an opening in the trees, his ball careened onto the fairway. When Campbell was eliminated for bogeying at the first playoff hole, Cabrera was left to contend with Perry. Cabrera seemed an unlikely winner, but at the second hole, the game shifted direction. With mud on his ball, Perry shot left and made a bogey. Cabrera only needed to make a routine par to win the Masters. Cabrera made it to the green, and two putts later, the jacket was his.
For Perry, Sunday’s Masters represented a second loss in a major.
For Cabrera, however, the Masters represented a second win in a major. At number 69 in the world, he is the lowest ranked player to have won a Masters.
“When they put the green jacket on I had goose bumps,” Cabrera explained through an interpreter. “I was shaking. I can’t even explain what was going through my body.”
“It’s the dream of any golfer to win the Masters. I’m so emotional I can barely talk.”
Though perhaps not quite as memorable, Cabrera’s words were a nice change from De Vincenzo’s infamous “I am a stupid” in 1968. (De Vincenzo was, in fact, among the first to call Cabrera after his victory to congratulate him.)
For Argentina, Cabrera’s words represented redemption; for the Masters, Cabrera, along with the others at this golf spectacle, infused much-needed energy in the usually sedate golf tournaments.