After more than a year without a top five finish anywhere in the world Argentina’s Angel Cabrera is back – with a bang.
The 39-year-old now has a Masters green jacket to add to his 2007 US Open victory and can call himself South America’s most successful-ever golfer.
“This is a great moment, the dream of any golfer to win The Masters,” said Cabrera after beating Americans Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell in the tournament’s first three-man play-off since Larry Mize defeated Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in 1987.
“I’m so emotional I can barely talk.”
They were the words compatriot Roberto De Vicenzo wishes he could have spoken at Augusta in 1968.
Open champion at the time, De Vicenzo was all set for a play-off with Bob Goalby and the chance of his second major, but signed for a par four on the 17th instead of the birdie three he actually took.
“What a stupid I am,” he famously said after being forced to accept second place.
Cabrera looked set to be a runner-up as well last night when he trailed Perry by two with two to play.
But the 48-year-old Ryder Cup hero, trying to become the oldest major winner ever, bogeyed them both and then bogeyed the second hole of sudden death as well.
By then it was down to the two of them, Campbell having missed a par putt of under four feet at the start of the play-off.
For Perry it was heart-breaking, no matter how brave a face he tried to put on it afterwards.
Thirteen years ago he was two ahead standing on the final tee of the US PGA championship, but took a bogey six, saw Mark Brooks birdie the hole and lost their play-off.
“I’ve got two to think about now,” said Perry, who missed a 15-footer for victory on the last. “But if this is the worst thing that happens to me, I can live with it.
“Great players get it done and Angel got it done.”
For most of the final day at Augusta National the main focus was on two other great players. The best two in the current game.
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, paired together for only the third time in the final round of a major, both charged spectacularly into contention from seven behind and with two to go were only one behind.
But both blew it.
Woods, after an eagle and four birdies, bogeyed the last two holes like Perry and in the end finished only joint sixth.
Mickelson, who had covered the front nine in a tournament record-equalling 30, double-bogeyed the short 12th after going in the water, missed a four-foot eagle putt on the 15th and a six-footer for birdie at the 17th, then bogeyed the last.
After winding up fifth Mickelson, who would have taken the world No. 1 spot for the first time in his life by winning, said: “I got it going, but the double at 12 certainly hurt. You’ve got to get through there with par.
“I just yanked it, just quit on it and the ball went dead right.
“Then at 15 I just made a tentative stroke – I didn’t trust my read, I didn’t commit to it.
“I enjoyed the opportunity to play with Tiger and I enjoyed the chance to try to win a golf tournament.
“I love the fact that I shot 30 to give myself an opportunity to win. I’m certainly disappointed with the way I played the back nine, though.
“It was a very emotional day. The crowd made the highs even higher and the moans made the lows even lower.”
Woods commented: “When I birdied 16 obviously I was right there. I hit a good tee shot down 17, but the wind wouldn’t let it cut back and consequently I was dead from there.
“I was just trying to shoot 65. I thought that would have been a good number to post. Obviously I didn’t do it.”
He shot 68 to Mickelson’s 67, but as it turned down it would taken 64s to get them into the play-off.
Woods added: “I hit it so bad today warming up. I was hitting quick hooks, blocks, you name it and then on the very first hole I almost hit it into eight fairway.”
That was almost 100 yards off line and he admitted: “It’s one of the worst tee shots I’ve ever hit starting out.
“I fought my swing all day and and almost won the tournament with a ’band-aid’ swing. It was just terrible – I don’t know what was going on.”
Cabrera did, but still had to scramble a par at the start of the play-off when his drive went deep into the trees and his second hit a trunk and luckily came out onto the fairway.
He was still a long way back, but a seven-foot putt kept him alive and victory came minutes later when Perry missed the 10th green and failed to get up and down.
Having fallen to 69th in the world – he was 17th after he beat Woods and Jim Furyk in the US Open two years ago – Cabrera was the biggest outsider to win The Masters since the rankings began in 1986.
Now he is back up to 18th and it should surprise nobody if more majors follow.