LITTLE ROCK — Pushing for a new Australian national flag that "appeals to all Australians," the man behind the movement might want to add a tiny golf ball to his design.
With the weight of a country of more than 22 million people on his shoulders, 32-year-old Adam Scott embraced the burden while defying the widely accepted theory that great putting is the way to win at Augusta National. Yes, he made a long one on the 72nd hole and a lesser one on the second playoff hole, but he missed many makeable ones that seemed so critical at the time.
Hopefully, the fact that he became the first to win the green jacket while anchoring a long putter will take a back seat to the many fine shots he hit while ignoring the scoreboards and the roars.
John Blaxland, a military historian from the Australian National University, has proposed a flag that includes a seven-pointed star filled with 250 dots to represent its millions of immigrants. Why not golf balls instead of dots to recall the April Sunday in 2013 when Scott ended the golf-crazed country’s 0-of-76 record at Augusta National.
Prior to the final round, even Scott said that a victory would mean a "nice little asterisk" by his name.
Before 25-year-old Jason Day made a questionable decision to putt instead of chip from behind the 16th green and backed that up with another bogey from the middle of the fairway on No. 17 and Angel Cabrera righted his ship, I thought the Aussie couldn’t lose. Day’s honest "I think pressure got to me a little bit" is appreciated.
So is the way Cabrera handled Scott’s success. After Cabrera lashed a 6-iron to the 10th green, he gave Scott a thumbs up for an even-better second. Scott intended to follow his winning putt with a high-five, but Cabrera would have none of it and initiated a hug.
In light of their recent records, their quality of play during the final hour was remarkable.
Cabrera, the 2007 U.S. Open champion and the 2009 Masters winner, made only nine of 20 cuts on the PGA Tour last year and did not have a Top 10 finish this year.
Identified as a can’t-miss major champion years ago, Scott had a four-shot lead with four holes to go in the British Open last year, but recorded four straight bogeys and lost to Ernie Els. Around the world, that loss was compared to the 1996 Masters when Aussie Greg Norman failed to protect a six-shot lead.
Both Scott and Cabrera had opportunities to fold.
Scott hit weak putts on the first two holes, three-putted No. 8 for a par, missed an uphill birdie putt of less than 10 feet on No. 9, failed to convert another birdie opportunity on No. 14, and was not close on an eagle putt on No. 15.
Wild with his driver on Nos. 10, 13, and 15, Cabrera somehow made a birdie putt on No. 16 and mashed drives on the last two holes. On No. 18, he watched from the fairway as Scott celebrated a birdie on the 18th and then responded with the sort of shot that most of us only dream about, a sky-high iron that settled a couple of feet from the pin.
Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson could not have provided better drama.
Speaking of Woods, he never adjusted to the speed of the greens. Still, he managed a 70 and finished four shots behind Scott and Cabrera.
That was OK. In light of the two-stroke penalty Woods incurred, the last thing we needed was the what-ifs that would have resulted if Woods had missed by a shot or two.
Thankfully, the ruling was Saturday. If it had occurred Sunday, the pro and con would have distracted from the golf.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.