Augusta — Even Sam Goldwyn would never have made a movie like this.
Nonsense, pure unadulterated nonsense. It was the championship round of that old Southern sports treasure, the Masters, and indeed, so eventually it developed, but inside that storm a tempest developed that completely distracted the invigorated thousands who lined the hills and hummocks of Augusta National. It was Easter Sunday, and the sun shone brightly, and the winds merely wafted through the pines as the 50 players teed off in pursuit of the precious green jacket. Intervening, however, was the match within the contest between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, paired for the 24th time in their careers, but rarely on such an emotional stage as this.
But first, the championship. After all the drives and all the putts, and birdies and bogeys of the day, nothing was decided until Kenny Perry, Chad Campbell and the Argentine, Angel Cabrera, played off a three-way tie. Campbell had already finished at 276 and sat it out in the scorer’s cabin while Perry bogeyed the 18th and Cabrera dropped a short putt that filled out the playoff cast.
It had been a kind of combative day that kept these thousands of spectators on edge, giving their lungs an exhausting workout. Mickelson swept Woods on the front nine, but finally won the personal match when Tiger came apart with bogeys on the l7th and 18th holes.
Roars, oh, they talk about how the roars have been missing on the incoming nine on Sunday afternoon since alterations to the course. Well, there was no shortage of roars this Sunday. Seldom č maybe never č have those Georgia pines been rattled with a such a shower of decibels. Throughout it all, Perry clung to the lead with a string of 11 straight pars until a shuffle began at the top of the board. Even Mickelson, at one time, played his way into second place, before crashing Rae’s Creek with his tee shot on the par-3 12th hole.
The playoff began on the 18th hole and Campbell, the quiet Texan, was first out. Perry and Cabrera moved on to the 10th hole, and the Kentuckian had a chance to become the oldest winner of a major championship in history. But he didn’t, tiring, no doubt at the age of 48, missing the green on his approach. The burly Cabrera had been there before, U.S. Open champion at Oakmont two years ago. Thus, his second major title, all on U.S. soil. A crushing blow for Perry, for whom opportunities as golden as these rarely ever come to
one his age.
This was a rare day at Augusta, in that views of the leaders were scant while CBS concentrated its attention on the Mickelson-Woods shootout. In the end, this kind of made up a disheartening loss to the country of Argentina. For back in 1968, the revered Roberto de Vicenzo, one of the great players of his time, had the Masters won, but made the error of signing an incorrect scorecard, not of his doing.
The green jacket, instead, went to Bob Goalby of Illinois, while de Vicenzo mournfully pleaded, “I am such a stupid.” He still lives in his native land, a much honored figure.
Cabrera is 39 years old, a veteran campaigner on world tours, concentrating mainly on the U.S. He has played well in the Masters, three times finishing in the top 10. But he’ll never see another day such as this, nor will the thousands of lusty golf parishioners who lined the fairways. One of those days that will long cling to the memory.