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Cabrera's tenacity makes the difference

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Rob Hodgetts | 07:33 UK time, Monday, 13 April 2009

Augusta National, Easter Sunday evening - Kenny Perry fought back the tears after seeing Angel Cabrera deny him the chance to become the oldest ever major champion at the Masters.

The 48-year-old Perry looked to have one arm in a Green Jacket with two holes to play but the Argentine proved once again that in sport you have to keep trying until you shake hands.

It's an apt motto, given that the man who coined it, Gary Player, retired from major championship golf at Augusta this week.

Trevor Immelman helps Cabrera into his Green Jacket

Cabrera and Perry were tied for the lead going into the final round but the story seemed to be unfolding elsewhere as Phil Mickelson launched a charge not seen on a Masters Sunday for some time.

The roars rebounding around the Augusta pines signalled something special was on the cards as Mickelson, winner of two out of the last five Masters, edged his way up the leaderboard.

By the 8th he had made up six shots and was just one adrift, and the Masters mojo was back after officials responded to criticism that recent course changes had made it too much of a grind by setting it up for low scoring.

Mickelson's playing partner Tiger Woods was also beginning to awaken - despite needing what he described as a "Band Aid" for his misfiring swing - and the pair whipped up huge, excitable crowds in their wake. The atmosphere crackled with electricity, with slightly more patrons pulling for Mickelson, at least the vocal ones.

But it seemed like the plug had been pulled on the party when the world number two dumped his tee shot into water on the 12th and made a double bogey. Several dozen variations on the theme of "doggarn it" came from the partisan patrons in the tightly packed galleries around Amen Corner.

Mickelson fought back, though, and Woods, feeling his way in his first major after knee surgery, continued to improve. The game was on, and the pair were tied at 10 under, two off the lead, with two left. If either of them could pull this off it would equal the second biggest comeback margin in Masters history.

But ultimately golf's big guns ran out of ammunition as Woods bogeyed 17 and 18 and Mickelson also dropped a shot on the last.

All eyes turned back to the leaders, and Perry launched a broadside of his own. Three birdies in five holes from the 12th took him to 14 under, two ahead of Cabrera and Campbell with two to play.

Cabrera had seen Mickelson pass him earlier on, and at one point Perry stretched the lead over him to three, but the man they call 'El Pato' (The Duck) kept plugging away, kept doing his thing.

"I told my caddie it was only a birdie to a bogey," said the 39-year-old. "I said, 'There's two holes left, I can still win'."

Perry duly obliged with a bogey on the 17th, but the man from Kentucky still looked like the eventual winner and despite finding sand on the final hole, the world number 11 reached match point - a "this for the Masters" putt that every kid dreams of.

But with history beckoning, he missed. Campbell was already in at 12 under and Cabrera, still fighting, knocked in an eight-footer on the 18th to join a play-off.

Kenny Perry sees his Masters dream fade away

Back on the 18th tee at the start of the play-off, Cabrera appeared to have blown his chances after finding the trees on the right. Firing out, his ball hit another tree and he looked around frantically, no idea where it had gone. The instant reaction was to write him off for a second time, especially as Perry and Campbell were in the middle of the fairway for one.

Cabrera, however, was like a persistent little kid trying to play with his older brothers and wouldn't go away. When Campbell dumped his approach into the right bunker and Perry came up short right, the door opened for Cabrera again.

He hit his approach to six feet and conjured a stunning par alongside Perry. Campbell could only manage five and crashed out.

Going down the 10th on the second sudden-death hole, Perry's approach ploughed into the fringe to the left of the green. Sensing time is running out on his career, he was so desperate to finally win a major but the reality of the dream unravelling seemed to crush him. Cabrera, from being down and out, was now in the box seat and he fired into the heart of the green.

When Perry took five, it was Cabrera who had the luxury of two putts for the Masters. Very meticulously, he used both of them.

"I had the tournament to win. I lost the tournament," said Perry. "But Angel hung in there. I was proud of him. He was hitting shots everywhere, and he'd get them up and down, or hit a great shot and make a putt."

It was a triumph for a man who will never accept when he is beaten. That man is usually Woods, but Cabrera showed the world number one doesn't have the monopoly on grit.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Think his nickname is "El pato", which is indeed "The Duck", but "El Plato" would be just as appropriate this week, being "The Silver" - or money in colloquial usage.

    Great to see Cabrera win, but did feel a bit sorry for the old man - I thought he looked like the champion after his tee-shot at 16 - I guess he started to think so too.

  • Comment number 2.

    What an evening of golf. Woods and Mickelson set the night up superbly and really got me on the edge of my seat for the rest of the evening. The double bogey at 12 ultimatly cost leftie his playoff slot too but what a pairing.

    Then after that warm up Campbell, Cabrera and Perry provided some real drama, at times some real magic and at other times some real head scratching moments which all just added to it. Well done to Angel for winning, i thought Perry would do it as he was consistantly solid all day until the 16th then it seemed as if he realised he was on to win it.

    But who ever said golf was boring to watch?

  • Comment number 3.

    in s america silver or money is called la plata whereas el plato actually means the plate

  • Comment number 4.

    Great Masters very exciting. well done Cabrera. Pity about Gary Linekar's dreadfully inane commentary. Please drop him from Golf tournaments. Let him stick to soccer.

  • Comment number 5.

    Great tournament. Pity we got to see so little golf - yes I know all about the limited coverage permitted by the Masters and the dependency on CBS...it's just a pity. Actually I watched and enjoyed more golf on the Amen Corner red button option (and so avoided having to listen to the inane comments of Alliss and co. He really is a spent force and an embarrassment to the BBC. Isn't it time he was put out to grass? Can't bother to comment on GL....)but what golf we did see was special, from a very special place.

  • Comment number 6.

    Not a great article. Cabrera did not make an 8 foot putt to get in the play-off, it was about 3 feet.

    I think that American golf looks strong again, after decade of Woods standing alone with Mickelson largely in his shadow, we now have young US players who look like potential champions. I rate the following players:
    1. Sean O'Hair;
    2. Hunter Mahan; and
    3 Antony Kim.

    My worry is that Poulter, Rose and Casey all look like top 20 players but seem to have levelled out without any one of them moving to the top table. Padraig needs a tougher course where grinding out pars and scrambling a score is rewarded.

    I backed Cabrera in the play off. I remember Kenny Perry choking against Mark Brooks in the PGA and he choked again. Chad Campbell is a bland golfer, there is nothing inspirational about him. He would have been a poor champion. The Duck ia a championship golfer, he nearly won Paul Lawrie's Open and now he has 2 majors which is fitting reward for someone with his talent.

    As for McIlroy, a future contender has arrived, whether he is a winner at this level is a question for him to answer. To date, he has looked a nervy player in a finish.

    A special word Shingo, a great tournament.

  • Comment number 7.

    Really enjoyed your articles Rob, Thanks! Hope you give yourself a treat and drive down to HHI for the Heritage.

    Do your press colleagues who won the ballot to play today get a raincheck?

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm very concerned and unhappy with the European golfers showing at this 1st Major , especially the Brits. The main 'names' are experienced, mature and have had lots of entries into the top events including Majors and are Harrington apart just not doing the business.
    By the age of 30, Sevvy, Lyle, Faldo, Woosy ,Ollie , Langer had at least a handful of Majors between them, so what's the difference now.
    Probably cash... most of the young uns are multi millionaires by now, so the riches of the game, don't seem to include winning the BIG ONES.!?
    I don't see Monty's job being easy at all in the next Ryder Cup, the American's from lefty down the order, look far stronger than the Europeans.
    Tiger is still by himself, give him 3 months and he will be winning 50% of his entries yet again.

  • Comment number 9.

    holy-moley, i don't know what ymasters you were watching but cabrera's putt was 8, not three feet. It was a great putt, middle of the hole under the nerviest of circumstances...

  • Comment number 10.

    Don't get me wrong, I did not want Cabrera to win. However, I must give credit where it is due and to be perfectly honest this man showed drive, determination and guts to stay in the hunt. In all reality he should not have even gone on to playoff hole # 2, but in all sports you need a little luck in your repertoire.

    Congratulations. You deserved it.

  • Comment number 11.

    I thought during the third round that Cabrera would win; but Mickelson could have been there if he hadn't missed short, straight putts for eagle and birdie on late holes. But I would have liked Perry to win, having led virtually throughout and most unlikely to ever have such a chance again. Well played, Kenny, just not well enough at the death.

  • Comment number 12.

    Watched the coveragee in Kuwait courtesy of Fox Sports and CBS, with Nick Faldo, amongst others, giving sensible and meaningful commentary. Backed Cabrera after Friday, so well chuffed, although Perry should have had it!! One inch away from winning after the regular 72 holes! Well done Cabrera. Great to watch, and did keep the US commentators quieter and more sensible than banging on and on about Leftie and Woods once they were out of it! Although both had to endure the most daft of questions from CBS idiots!!

  • Comment number 13.

    HolaChabales - Thanks for picking me up on the El Pato typo.

    Kwini - does sound from the players like Hilton Head is a great tournament to unwind at. I'll be making my merry way back to London though.

    Madeiraman57 - The Brits do seem to struggle at this level. Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland was best at 17th. It is becoming a bit of a concern, though you ask anyone and they just shrug and say, there's no reason, they're just not playing well enough. Well' that's what Sam Torrance said when I asked him anyway. But all these players can hit the ball, so I think there must be more to it than that. Unless by "not playing very well" Sam was including the mental aspect as well.

  • Comment number 14.

    The best final day at the master that I can remember, largely down to Phil Mickelsons submlime early play and return to the puttting frailties which have dogged him at Augusta for so long. And I'm glad after seeing Tiger thread the needle so many times through the trees, that finally he did what we all do when we try to do the same and twatted it off a tree trunk. He is mortal after all.

    And is it me or did Sam Torrance have money on Cabrera, he tipped him the other day and got very excited every time he did anything after that. I think ol Sam has made a few this weekend.

    http://pgatourist.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 15.

    I think the Mickelson/Woods partnership made the last day. I think without it, we might have been stuck with a bit of a dull day dominated by Perry's collapse on 17 and 18. But Mickelson and then Woods had everyone excited early on, and Cabrera seems a good guy that the crowd warmed to eventually. (even if it was a fairly typical partisan US crowd.)

    Best Masters for a while mind!

  • Comment number 16.

    Yes I am glad that Senor Cabrera won.Like others I am disturbed by the American medias' fascination of Tiger Woods.Mention is made of Kenny Perry's "collapse" on the 17th and 18th holes -- who else BOGIED those holes -- the icon TIGER WOODS.Kenny Perry came out of the tournament with a huge amount of dignity and sportsmanship.he deserves a lot of credit for his post tournament comments and behaviour. However USA only likes or praises winners!!! The media over here in general do not appear to like the truth or an honest opinion they have turned on Sergio's comments about the course almost to a man.He is now accused of being "petulant" when all he is doing is expressing his opinion,albeit a minority one,about a course which is "tricked up".I hope some of the European press come to his defense.

  • Comment number 17.

    Tiger Woods had a gracelessness, which happily fell well short of the boorishness of his unpleasant Antipodean caddie, on his post-match interview, and his gamesmanship prior to the tee off with Phil Michelson was unpleasant. (See today's "Telegraph")

    Peter Aliss made a point of complimenting Phil Michelson following HIS post match interview, where Michelson came across as warm and generous, describing the match with Woods as "fun".

    I suspect that the PR people behind the Woods Corporation should have a word with Woods and his porter. The public face is not appealing, once the surface is scraped, and the bubble could easily burst.

  • Comment number 18.

    Best Master's in a long time. Cabrera struggled all day, but came up with the shots and putts when he needed to. Kenny Perry is pure class.....after losing, said he was proud of Cabrera.....not too many gentlemen left in sports. Congratulations to Mr. Perry for keeping things in perspective...it's still just a game.

    On the other hand, CBS should not show Tiger Woods' face when he misses a putt....I could read the stream of four letter words coming from his mouth...usually the first one began with an F. He constantly scowls on the course (unless he's winning by 10 strokes). The media calls this focus,passion and determination.....but to me, he seems like a brat, petulent, un-caring, and maybe a bit unbalanced. He's the best player in world (probably the best ever)but I'm sick of it and even though I'm an American, I'm quickly becoming an ABT (anyone but Tiger).

  • Comment number 19.

    madeiraman57 - i think your looking too much into this final positions of this years masters. If you look back to last years Open Championship there where 7 european players in the top 10 including 1st and 2nd places, more than players from the USA and aswell at last years USPGA where there where 5 european golfers in the top 10 compared to 3 americans again including 1st and 2nd. I think it was just an off week for the europeans as the course was certainly set up easier than usually is.

 

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