Earning his wings

The Baltimore Sun

AUGUSTA, Ga. -The roars returned Sunday. But they eventually gave way to tears.

As Kenny Perry spoke of falling one stroke short of becoming the oldest Masters champion, son Justin sat with his head in his hands. He appeared numb.

Perry's wife, Sandy, consoled Justin by rubbing his back. But she was more concerned about Kenny.

"My heart aches for him," she said.

Perry said he'll be OK. He has a great family and a short memory, he insisted. And he was adamant the right man won: Angel Cabrera.

"Great players get it done," Perry said. "Angel got it done."

A Masters Sunday worthy of par per view evolved into the ultimate episode of Survivor, with Cabrera beating Perry and Chad Campbell on the second playoff hole after the three tied at 12-under-par 276.

After Perry hooked his approach and failed to get up and down for par on the second playoff hole at No. 10, Cabrera tapped in for the victory. The Argentine became the first South American to don the green jacket but knows golf will remain second to soccer in his native land.

"I do what I do," said Cabrera, the 2007 U.S. Open champion. "What [Diego] Maradona does, that's his game."

The drama leading up to the sudden-death playoff was so thick, so memorable, it left patrons wondering whether this was the best Masters Sunday since 1986, when Jack Nicklaus shot 30 on the back nine to claim his sixth green jacket.

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods scared the leaders by reaching 10-under, one behind Perry.

"I was hoping they'd have a little boxing match out there," Perry said.

Mickelson became just the fourth player to shoot 30 on Augusta's front nine.

But when he dumped his 9-iron into Rae's Creek on No. 12, he tossed in his momentum with it.

"That was really a terrible swing," he said.

Mickelson missed crucial putts on Nos. 15 and 16 and ended at 9-under, three behind the leaders.

Woods' morning was a disaster. He had a terrible practice session, made worse by tripping and nearly falling as he walked off the range. Then his first drive hooked so far left that he nearly drove the eighth green.

"One of the worst tee shots I've ever hit starting out," he said. "I fought my swing all day and almost won with a Band-Aid swing."

Perry swung beautifully almost all day. He nearly aced the 170-yard 16th hole with an 8-iron that settled less than a foot from the cup.

That put him at 14-under and gave him a two-shot lead. At 48 years, 8 months, he was on the verge of becoming the oldest man to win a major - even older than Old Tom Morris when he triumphed at the 1867 British Open at 46.

But Perry bogeyed the final two holes. He hit a poor drive and chip on No. 17 and then drove into a bunker on No. 18. Still, he had a 16-foot try to win it.

"I've seen so many people make that putt," he said. "You've got to give that putt a run."

Instead, the putt lost steam as it approached the cup.

Cabrera had his own adventure on the hole. He sliced his drive into the trees, and rather than punching out, he tried to go through the woods. His ball smacked a tree and ricocheted into the fairway. A terrific wedge left him within 8 feet.

Asked whether he felt jittery over the putt, Cabrera replied, "Any player who says he does not feel nerves, he's not human."

Campbell eliminated himself from the playoff with a bogey on the first hole, the 18th.

Perry and Cabrera hit terrific drives on the second playoff hole, but Perry's wayward approach ended his run.

"I had the tournament to win," Perry said. "And I'll probably never get this opportunity again. But I had lot of fun being in there. I had a blast."

Talk like that helped his wife cope with the disappointment.

"I felt a lot better," she said, "after hearing him."


Final round , par 72 (x-won playoff)

x-Angel Cabrera

68-68-69-71 - 276

Chad Campbell

65-70-72-69 - 276

Kenny Perry

68-67-70-71 - 276

Shingo Katayama

67-73-70-68 - 278

Phil Mickelson

73-68-71-67 - 279

John Merrick

68-74-72-66 - 280

Steve Flesch

71-74-68-67 - 280

Tiger Woods

70-72-70-68 - 280

Steve Stricker

72-69-68-71 - 280


Playoff results since sudden-death format began in 1976 (hole-by-hole scoring indicated):

1979: Fuzzy Zoeller (4-3) defeated Ed Sneed (4-4) and Tom Watson (4-4) with a birdie on the second hole (No. 11).

1982: Craig Stadler (4) defeated Dan Pohl (5) with a par on the first hole (No. 10).

1987: Larry Mize (4-3) defeated Seve Ballesteros (5) and Greg Norman (4-4) with a birdie on the second hole (No. 11).

1989: Nick Faldo (5-3) defeated Scott Hoch (5-4) with a birdie on the second hole (No. 11).

1990: Faldo (4-4) defeated Raymond Floyd (4-5) with a par on the second hole (No. 11).

2003: Mike Weir (5) defeated Len Mattiace (6) with a bogey on the first hole (No. 10).

2005: Tiger Woods (3) defeated Chris DiMarco (4) with a birdie on the first hole (No. 18).

2009: Angel Cabrera (4-4) defeated Chad Campbell (5) and Kenny Perry (4-5), right, on the second hole (No. 10).

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