29 May 2020 | Professional golf | Feature stories |
Great Australian Moments 10: Scotty removes the curse
by Martin Blake
There’s a misnomer that the curse on Australians at Augusta National began with Greg Norman. But the truth is, it was already in place before the Shark started wobbling his way through back nines on his fruitless quest for the green jacket of the Masters.
It dates all the way back to Jim Ferrier, the Sydney professional, who led the 1950 Masters by three shots through 12 holes before he bogeyed five of the last six holes, handing the tournament to American Jimmy Demaret.
It was fuelled again by Craig Parry’s closing 78 having led into the final round in 1992, and by Stuart Appleby’s inability to close out after taking the 54-hole lead in 2007.
And of course there are Norman’s plethora of near-misses and mishaps that include 1986, 1987 and the catastrophe of 1996. The Shark gave up a six-shot lead in the final round and everyone knew then that the curse of the green jacket was something real.
There was also 2011, when not one but three Aussies had a chance deep into the final day. Adam Scott led through 16 holes and parred his way in, but he and Jason Day and Geoff Ogilvy all had to doff their hats to South Africa's Charl Schwartzel, who went and birdied the last four holes in succession to win. That curse again …
This was the prism through which to view Scott’s Masters win in 2013. This was not merely a supreme personal triumph for a genuinely nice man, who had endured his own share of heartbreak in his fade-out at the 2012 Open Championship just nine months earlier. This was a cradling of the holy grail for a whole country’s people.
It is the reason why mild-mannered Scott, having holed a right-to-left curler for birdie at the 72nd hole and thinking that it was enough for him to win, conjured the most uncharacteristically spontaneous outpouring of emotion of his career. "Come. On. Aussie…’’
And there in the background of that famous photo of the moment, his compatriot Marc Leishman, quietly fist-pumping to himself despite the fact his own chances had gone south on the day.
It was the lifting of a huge weight from the shoulders of a great sporting nation. Two years earlier, Cadel Evans had become the first Australian to won cycling’s iconic Tour De France, leaving only the Masters of the jigsaw pieces to be fitted. Now, the puzzle was complete.
The irony of that day was that when Scott holed his 20-foot putt on the 72nd hole and roared with affirmation, it ought to have been the moment. It certainly had all the ingredients. But it was not.
In the group behind, the brilliant Argentine Angel Cabrera, the 2009 Masters winner, was just a shot back. When Cabrera hit a picture-perfect short iron close to the flag at the 18th and holed the putt, it forced a playoff.
Scott would have to regroup and go again, first back down the 18th where they both made pars, then down the 10th, that wonderful downhill, hooking par-four.
Scott hit a lovely six iron in tight, and then after Cabrera so narrowly missed his long birdie putt, had a chance to take the prize right there from just outside three metres. It was a slippery, right-to-lefter, 10 feet in the golfers' language.
“One cup (outside)?’’ Scott ventured to his caddie Steve Williams as he surveyed it, cradling his controversial long putter. “No, two,’’ said Williams, who surely knew his way around that hallowed piece of turf.
It never looked like missing. BOOM!
What’s worth reflecting on is that immediately afterward, Scott’s thoughts turned to Norman, who had prompted him to play in the first place as a boy growing up on the Gold Coast. “There’s one guy who inspired a nation of golfers, and that’s Greg Norman,'' said Scott. "He’s been incredible to me and all the young golfers in Australia and a part of this definitely belongs to him.’’
Adam Scott didn’t make it about himself. “This is one notch in the belt that we’ve never got. It’s amazing it’s come down to me.”
So in his greatest moment of personal triumph, he made it about all of us. That summer, he came home and played in all the local tournaments, bringing out the famous green jacket to show the fans who lined up in their thousands for a photograph.
Scott went out knocking on people’s doors -- friends and family and mentor figures around his home country who’d helped him along the way. And when they answered the door, they found him wearing that jacket (which winners are allowed to keep in their possession for the first 12 months, before returning it to Augusta National).
It is the single greatest moment in Australian golf and also, up near the top of all of this country’s sporting annals with Cathy Freeman’s 2000 Olympic victory, with some of Sir Donald Bradman’s and Shane Warne's feats, with the 1983 America's Cup victory and our Olympic swimmers.
There may be other Australians who win the Masters. Hopefully so. But he has one thing to himself, never to be taken away. He’s the first.
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