I have to admit that I get a little jittery when watching a sudden-death playoff. When a player stands over
a shot, I usually cover my eyes. I’m like a football coach who turns his back while his kicker attempts a
game-winning field goal. Sometimes, though, I muster up enough courage to peek through my fingers and I
did that on Sunday, even before the playoff began.
I was shoveling spoonfuls of sweet potatoes into my 6-month-old daughter’s mouth while watching the
final groups play the final few holes Sunday so I missed some key shots. I missed Adam Scott strike that
birdie putt at the 18th. I was turning the aforementioned spoonful of sweet potatoes into an airplane and
providing sound effects to boot. I looked up at the TV just as the ball was gently curling around the left side
of the cup and disappearing into the bottom.
I decided I had to begin feeding sweet potatoes rapid-fire into my baby’s belly if I had any hopes of
giving the Masters my (almost) undivided attention. I knew I might pay for it later in the form of a little
regurgitation, but this was history in the making at Augusta. I could sense it.
I have to say that I was shocked when Scott, who struggled mightily to make a putt through the first 12
holes Sunday, sunk that 20-foot birdie putt. But I was even more shocked when Scott and caddie Stevie
Williams connected seamlessly on their celebratory high-five. After all, we’d been watching Stevie and
Tiger awkwardly swat the air on attempted high-fives for more than a decade,–the most famous coming
after Tiger’s chip-in at the 16th at the 2005 Masters. Take a look.
But let’s get back to the golf. I was happy that Scott dropped that putt, especially after watching him
collapse at last year’s Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes when he blew a four-shot lead
with four holes to play by making four straight bogies. But I was rooting for Angel Cabrera too. All I really
wanted was a great finish. I already had witnessed that and I almost left the room to give my daughter her
bottle for dessert, but something kept me on the couch to watch the final group finish.
Then Cabrera stuck a 7-iron from 163 yards to 3 feet. When I saw that, I honestly thought that it was the
greatest clutch shot I had ever witnessed. A bold statement I know, but it was an awesome shot. I knew
Cabrera was cool under pressure and I had a feeling that he was going to hit a good shot and have a chance
to make a birdie to force a playoff, but “El Pato’s” approach was ridiculous. Of course, I couldn’t watch
when he stood over the ensuing putt.
Normally, I would have thought that there was no way the playoff could possibly match the excitement
of those back-to-back birdies. But once again, something told me that my daughter’s first Masters – at this
point I had spinned her Bumbo around to face the TV – had something more in store for us.
And sure enough my daugher, Anna, and I watched side by side, eyes glued to the TV, I, knowing I was
witnessing one of the best finishes to a major championship of my life, her most likely knowing that she
liked the vibrant greens of Augusta and that’s about it.
They both followed sub-par approaches at the 18th in the playoff with solid chips from just short of the
green, Cabrera watching in sheer agony as his attempt scooted oh-so-close to the cup. Had that chip found
the hole, a heartbroken Scott, would have had to eventually tip his cap to Cabrera’s ability to pull out yet
another clutch shot at the most distressing of times. Instead, knowing he had to get up and down to extend
the playoff, Scott hit an above-average chip and made another crucial putt to move on. Anna applauded and
I was happy this historic finish was going to have another chapter.
At the second playoff hole, the par-4 10th, two strong tee shots followed by even better approaches set
up an edge-of-your-seat, or in Anna’s case, edge-of-your Bumbo, putting contest. As a kid who learned
the game from his dad, I loved to see Cabrera and his son reading that birdie putt together. To know that
Cabrera respected and trusted his son’s opinion so much in such a monumental moment was really special
to see so I tried to will that big, bending birdie putt into the hole. My heart dropped as the putt stopped
centimeters from the edge of the cup and Anna’s head dropped simultaneously to show her disappointment
Then, when Scott coolly canned his birdie try moments later, and we watched a classy Cabrera, already a
Masters winner himself, congratulate Scott on his first career major, I picked Anna up out of her Bumbo
and hugged her, happy to have shared this major championship memory with her. I know it might not have
been quite as momentous as the Cabreras’ father-son experience on Sunday, but it was a good moment
nonetheless. Then Anna spit up her sweet potatoes all over my t-shirt. Hey, at least I wasn’t wearing a
green jacket, right?