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Life Lessons from Scott's Masters Victory

There was much to see in the tournament as a metaphor for life, writes Dermot Gilleece

Posted Apr 16, 2013 by Dermot Gilleece

Angel Cabrera

More than any other Major, the Masters has a remarkable capacity for reviving vivid memories of former stagings.  And while watching the thrilling drama of Adam Scott’s play-off triumph over Angel Cabrera, the realisation dawned that it had to do with the event’s extraordinary venue.  It has to do with the dramatic setting created by towering pines as part of the wonderful natural splendour of Augusta National.

In the dank gloom of an April evening, with the clock easing past seven local time, one was spirited back to 1989 when conditions were remarkably similar for Nick Faldo’s breakthrough victory.  Again it was in a play-off.  And inevitably, it, too, was about putting.

Faldo’s win had to do with a missed 30-inch effort by Scott Hoch on the 10th, which was then the first play-off hole. And given an unlikely chance of another crack at the coveted green jacket, the Englishman gratefully accepted by sinking a 25-footer for victory on the 11th.  With his arms outstretched in the gathering gloom, Faldo created an image which, as a CBS commentator, he could now witness from Scott last Sunday.

Another memory evoked by Sunday’s climax was of the 1999 Masters.  That was when Greg Norman could hardly credit what was happening, as he walked up the 18th as playing partner to Jose Maria Olazabal, soon to be crowned champion for a second time.

As the victim of so many broken dreams in the so-called Cathedral in the Pines, Norman had convinced himself that conquering Augusta demanded something very special.  Something very different from the stunning performances he could readily deliver while successfully chasing victory in regular tournaments.  So it was that, looking across at the Spaniard, he later admitted to utter bemusement as he found himself thinking: "It's as easy as that; he's won the tournament."

Now, instead of expecting something special, he recognised too late in his tournament career that the mark of true competitive greatness is to make things look easy.  And the truth is that apart from sinking marvellous putts on the 72nd and final play-off greens, Scott did nothing which could have been considered spectacular.  Yet he succeeded in going where his hero, Norman, had repeatedly failed to go, by becoming the first Australian winner of the Masters.

There were other remarkable elements to those climactic moments, and the one to make the biggest impression on me was the relationship between Cabrera and his son, Angel Jnr, who was caddying for him.  As a parent, it would be difficult to imagine any situation of father-son togetherness to rival this team-work.  Here we had a youngster seeing his father’s composure stretched almost to breaking point by the frustrations of a notoriously demanding game.  And you could sense the intense pride while watching admiringly as Cabrera responded magnificently to the pressure of the moment by sinking a birdie putt on the short 16th and by the majesty of the player’s approach to the 72nd green, where he needed a birdie to get into a play-off.

And you sensed the surge of emotion for both of them when that birdie was duly secured and they shared a loving embrace with the world watching, courtesy of the television lens.  But though he didn’t realise it, the best had yet to come for young Cabrera.  Ironically, it happened after Scott birdied the 10th for victory.  That was when we had the gloriously sporting spectacle of the loser warmly congratulating his conqueror.  Angel Jnr is unlikely to witness a greater lesson in accepting life’s vicissitudes.

Other lessons didn’t have an emotional, family context. While the teak-tough Argentinian would have been a very popular winner, there was a popular acceptance that Scott had paid his dues at Royal Lytham last year.  That, too, ranked as a memorable Major, not least for the dignity of the Australian in defeat.  With an Open Championship in his grasp, he had bogeyed the last four holes and kicked the door wide open for a grateful Ernie Els.

Golfers and golf observers are often guilty of ascribing far more importance to the game as a metaphor for life, than it really warrants.  In the gloom of Augusta National last Sunday, however, there were some truly enriching lessons to be observed, whatever one’s sporting persuasion.   

- Dermot Gilleece

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