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Australia can finally celebrate a Masters title

AUGUSTA, Ga.

The putt skirted across the grass at 6:38 p.m., and it fell into the cup at 9:08 a.m. half a world away. It traveled from dusk until dawn and from this hemisphere to that one, and it traveled across time and distance and history.

G'day, Australia.

The Masters is finally yours.

After 73 years of not being good enough, the Aussies finally conquered Augusta National. And who had Adam Scott in the pool?

In two extra holes, Scott held off Argentina's Angel Cabrera — the 2009 winner — Sunday night, just ahead of the darkness. And just like that, all of the frustrations of the past — Greg Norman's, in particular — sunk back into the approaching darkness.

And suddenly, an entire continent attempts to fit into a green jacket.

From Wollongong to Too­woomba, from Wagga Wagga to Dubbo, from Warrnambool to Bathurst, from every beachside shanty to every inland wallaby ranch, this one was for the Aussies. Since their first contestant here back in 1940 through 40 other entrants, Australia had tried to finish first. And it could not.

Not Bruce Devlin, who finished in the top 10 four times. Not Stuart Appelby, who tied for seventh in 2007. Not Bruce Crampton, who tied for second in 1972. Not Steve Elkington, who had two top-five finishes. And not Norman, who finished in the top 10 nine times and who, in 1996, blew a six-shot lead on the final nine of the tournament, finishing second to Nick Faldo.

For a sports-crazy, golf-obsessed country, this makes up for all of that. Adam Scott did it.

The Aussies are no longer second-class citizens.

"I'm a proud Australian," said Scott, 33. "I've said it before, but we're a proud sporting nation, and we like to think we're the best at everything like any proud sporting nation. But you know, golf is a big sport at home, and it's been a sport with a long list of great players. And this was the one thing in golf we had not been able to achieve.

"So it's amazing that it's my destiny to be the first Aussie to win it. It's just incredible."

The thing is, it wasn't just Scott. The Aussies invaded the Masters this past week. Marc Leishman led the tournament for part of the week, and for most of Sunday, Jason Day looked as if the tournament was his.

In the end, it was the even-tempered Scott, shouting after holing a 20-foot putt on the 18th, clutching the Aussie flag as he walked off the green, embracing his father behind the 10th hole (and final playoff hole). Underneath it all, this was a player riding a huge wave at the end.

"At 18, I was pumped," Scott said. "It was a huge moment. I felt I had a chance to seize it right there. This is the chance. Put all the pressure on the guy back down the fairway.

"Then going to the playoff was a special feeling. I think going down the 10th fairway was almost deafening."

In the days to come, when every Australian golf fan has a backslap waiting for Scott, there is one in particular he wants: Norman's.

"He inspired a nation of golfers; anyone near my age, older and younger," Scott said. "He was the best player in the world, and he was an icon in Australia. Everything about the way he handled himself was incredible to have as a role model.

"And that was enough. But he's devoted so much time to me and other young Australian players who came after him. Most of us would feel that he could have slipped a green jacket on. Part of this is for him because he's given me so much time and inspiration and belief. I drew on that a lot today.

"Hopefully, at some point, I'll get to sit down with Greg and have a chat. I'm sure he's really happy. A phone conversation isn't going to do it for us. We are really close, and I'd love to share a beer with him over this one."

Perhaps Scott will talk of the key putts at the end. And perhaps he will talk of the little moments along the way. After a week such as this one, all of them are important.

And the icon is one thing; his father is something else.

Of all of Scott's moments, the sweetest moment was shared with Phil, his father, outside of the tent at the 10th hole.

"He said, 'It doesn't get any better than this,' " Scott said. "It's a moment I'll never forget, being able to hug him on the back of the 10th green. He was the biggest influence on me. He was a great role model for me as a kid. He did an incredible job of just letting me be who I am."

The days to come will be hectic for Scott. There will be the joyful homecoming down under. There will be the chat with Norman. There will be more noise over the anchored putter.

Most of all, there will be a countrywide celebration. Australia no longer is 0-for-the-Masters. There is a green jacket to share.

It isn't the man on the moon stuff. But for now, a jacket in the clubhouse is enough.

Australia can finally celebrate a Masters title 04/14/13 [Last modified: Sunday, April 14, 2013 11:57pm]
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