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Golf overshadowed Masters penalities

Posted: April 17, 2013 - 12:14am

Until the final round of the Masters on Sunday, it appeared this year’s tournament would be remembered for two controversial rulings. Instead it will be remembered for two classy individuals making incredible shots in clutch situations.

Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera have plenty of men in green jackets breathing a sigh of relief Sunday night. Scott became the first Aussie to earn a victory at Augusta. In doing so, he became a hero in his home country and, along with Cabrera, became a hero in Augusta.

On Friday, tournament officials assessed a penalty for slow play on China’s 14-year-old golfing phenom, Tianglang Guan (rightly, I might add). The move drew ire from fans and became the hot topic on all the national sports-talk shows.

The Guan story would be tough to trump, but that happened Saturday morning when word began to spread that Masters officials were reviewing a drop made by Tiger Woods on the 15th hole. Tiger’s third shot hit the flag stick, but kicked into the water. Tiger made an illegal drop before playing his next shot. The drop was reviewed and found to be legal, as Tiger played the 18th hole.

After Tiger’s post-round interview was brought to their attention, the competition committee elected to hand down a 2-shot penalty. The decision, or maybe more appropriately, the handling of the situation, caused a firestorm of discussion around the globe. Some felt Tiger should have been disqualified, many felt the issue was resolved Friday and no punishment should be assessed, and others thought Tiger should withdraw.

The bottom line, the tournament appeared to be marred by two difficult situations in a sport in which the rules can be challenging to decipher. Instead, on Sunday, the headlines shifted back to golf. Scott, a hard-luck loser at last year’s British Open, made an improbable birdie on the 72nd hole. After his 20-foot putt rolled in, he appeared to have the green jacket in hand.

However, moments later Cabrera changed that. Cabrera had already made a great birdie at No. 16 and now he faced a 7-iron, down one shot on the final hole.

The 2009 Masters champion hit an incredible shot that stopped 3 feet from the hole. His tap-in birdie forced the 16th playoff in tournament history.

After each man made par at the first playoff hole (No. 18) they headed to No. 10 to try to decide 2013’s first major. With Scott well behind Cabrera after their tee shots, Scott hit a stellar approach that even impressed Cabrera, who gave Scott a thumbs-up. Cabrera would find the green, but his birdie putt came up short. That left Scott with a chance to seal the deal. He calmly rolled in his 15-footer to claim the title.

The class and sportsmanship that was on display Sunday is something I will not soon forget.

After all the controversy, we got back to golf writing the headlines, with two great champions going mano-a-mano.

Like two heavyweights trading blows, they battled into the darkness, but did so with respect for their playing companion and for the game.

Yes, they put the gentleman back in the gentleman’s game, and for that I am grateful.

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