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Masters gets a finish that puts focus back on golf

POSTED April 15, 2013
BY John Nestor
Twitter: @nestorjdn

Augusta National, CBS and the game of golf owe Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera big time.

For a couple days the Masters was turning into just another sporting event marred by officiating, but on Sunday a handful of players led by Scott and Cabrera helped turn it back into what it is, one of the best sporting events in the world.

Augusta National is a beautiful place, all green rolling hills and blooming azaleas, white sand in the bunkers so bright it's almost blinding. It was too bad that the event and the game got a black eye, at least temporarily because of a pair of officiating blunders.

A slow-play penalty handed down to 14-year-old Tianlang Guan was the first outrage. Slow play has plagued the game for some time but little to nothing is ever done about it. So what do the rules officials at The Masters do? They single out a 14-year-old and slap him with a one-stroke penalty.

It was a joke and plenty of players and media members spoke out against it. I mean think about it, you're 14 and trying to make the cut at THE MASTERS! Who wouldn't take a little extra time here and there. Guan's playing partner, Ben Crenshaw, who won the Masters twice, said he was sick over the penalty. It turned out well as the teenager made the cut, but what a debacle it could have been if he had missed the cut by a shot.

Then there was Tiger and the drop. Was it bad, was it good, was it both. In the end, it's still not clear but one thing is clear to me... golf fans need to put down the phone and watch the action. It's ridiculous to me that people call in and try to officiate the game from home. How about we call refs at the final Four about the missed goaltend or the bad block-charge call. Maybe the officials at the Super Bowl need a hand on the missed hold or pass interference call. And couldn't we all call balls and strikes from our couch a lot better than some of these umps at baseball games?!

It's ridiculous and needs to stop. 

Tiger ended up with a two-stroke penalty for a drop that pictures in the Augusta Chronicle show, might not have even been illegal. It was part phone call from a viewer and part Tiger's talking about setting up a yardage with his drop that led to a lengthy and confusing ruling that allowed Tiger to play the weekend, but cost him a shot at being a real factor down the stretch on Sunday.

Woods didn't make enough putts and had a few too many loose shots to put real pressure on the leaders, but it would have been fun watching him try if it weren't for the penalty.

Which brings us to Scott and Cabrera and their play made us all forget anything that happened before Sunday thankfully. They say the Masters starts on the back nine on Sunday and that was never more true than this year. Looking for his second green jacket, Cabrera made the turn with a two-stroke lead, gave strokes away at Nos. 10 and 13 and rebounded with birdies at 16 and 18 to get into a playoff.

Scott, who was burdened with being one of the best players never to win a major, just kept grinding all day. After nine straight pars, Scott birdied three of his final six holes, including a clutch putt on 18 with Cabrera back in the fairway to take a brief lead. Cabrera answered with a birdie on 18 and the drama and tension were off the charts, it was what sports and the Masters are all about.

The greatest thing about the playoff was that Scott won it, which had to be enormously satisfying. Long believed to have the talent to win a major, Scott had never come through on golf's biggest stages and blew a lead and chance to win the British Open last year on the final four holes. He rebounded from that disappointment with some clutch putting down the stretch and his birdie putt on the second hole of the playoff gave him his first major and made him the first Australian to ever win the Masters.

"We’re a proud sporting country, like to think we’re the best at anything, like any proud sporting country. This was one thing in golf we hadn’t been able to achieve," Scott said. "It’s amazing that it’s my destiny to be the first Aussie to win.”

CHIPS AND PUTTS: It truly was an amazing week for Guan. Not only did the 14-year-old make the cut and win the Silver Cup as low amateur but he had some impressive stats. He did not three-putt on Augusta's treacherous greens and his worst score all week was a bogey. He was the only amateur to make the cut and finished ahead of big names like U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson, Ben Curtis and Padraig Harrington, who all missed the cut.

The last 18 majors have been won by 17 different players. Only Rory McIlroy has won multiple majors in that span.

Speaking of Rory, he was a non-factor at Augusta and is still in search of his game after switching to Nike clubs this season. Phil Mickelson, one of the pre-tournament favorites was a no-show as well and seems to be nearing the end of the line as far as his time to contend and win the majors.

Tiger has not won a Masters since 2005 when he won in a playoff over Chris DiMarco and his last major win came in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008. I believe he'll win another major and he should have a great shot at the U.S. Open in June at Merion, but as the 17 in 18 stat shows, it is so hard to win majors and more and more players are becoming capable of doing it.

Scott won $1.44 million for his victory.

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