Angel Cabrera's Win, Not Perry's Collapse, Story of 2009 Masters
There it was, on the front page of ESPN.com, Cabrera holding a thumbs-up and a caption that made it seem like he won by default.
“The '09 Masters will be remembered not for Angel Cabrera's playoff win, but for Kenny Perry's epic collapse and his grace in defeat,” someone for ESPN wrote.
Kenny Perry's collapse was appalling. It was awful. Okay. But to say that his demise will be remembered far more than Angel Cabrera's win? Bogus.
Sure, Perry's collapse ranks as one of the worst in modern major history, but it is not what we will remember this Masters for. Maybe for a year or two, but not forever.
We remember Jean Van de Velde at the 1999 Open Championship. We remember Greg Norman at the 1996 Masters Tournament. We remember Roberto DeVicenzo at the 1968 Masters Tournament.
But for losers, that is about it.
Unless I prod you about it, would remember that Nick Faldo won the 1989 Masters Tournament or that Scott Hoch missed a two-foot tap-in that would have won him the Green Jacket on the first playoff hole?
Yes, that collapse is just as memorable, but it's not the first thing that comes to mind. You think Faldo: Three-time champion. Then, finally, when you look back at each of the tournaments, Scott Hoch comes to mind.
But that does not excuse the sorry excuse for a finish that Kenny Perry delivered.
He should have won the Green Jacket. It was his. More so than anyone else since Hoch added a “c” to the beginning of his name 20 years ago.
You could almost imagine three decades down the road seeing a “Masters Classic” flashback and hearing “Kenny Perry: Masters Champion!”
There he was, walking down towards the 70th green having played the best golf of anyone in the tournament. The par-three 16th, forever synonymous with Jack Nicklaus after he hit within three feet on his way to a record sixth Green Jacket in 1986, was about to get a new sponsor.
That tee shot by Perry, so perfect, so storybook, stuck within a foot of the hole. A statement. Almost as if Perry heard everyone talking about his chance to become the oldest major champion and oldest Masters champion.
Nicklaus's 1986 title at the age of 46, of course, was the oldest ever at Augusta, and the third-oldest in any major.
But Perry's tee-shot was a statement, a statement to Jack: “I may be two years older, but I'm also two feet closer.”
Then, something went wrong.
Kenny Perry, who had been smooth and steady all week and especially all day, lost his calm.
His approach shots on both the 17th and 18th holes were erratic.
On the 17th, he went long. Needing to go up and down to save par, he shot it over the green. Perry bogeyed and his lead was down to just a shot.
A terrible drive on the last found Perry in the bunker down the left side of the fairway. Two terrible shots later, he was finally on the green with a putt for the title.
Fifteen feet, a Phil Mickelson putt when it was his time in 2004.
But it was not Perry's time. Not today. He did not have the mind to win.
Meanwhile, during all of this, Angel Cabrera played the back nine of his life, right along-side Perry.
He was down and out, gone, goodbye, after a bogey at 10 put him down to nine under par.
Then, then I don't know. Cabrera just found it.
Smooth and steady, just like Perry, but it never stopped.
Birdies on 13, 15 and 16 got Cabrera within two shots of the lead. Pars on 17 and 18 got him into a playoff.
His tee shot on 16 will be forgotten, but it should not be. Cabrera nailed it within eight feet. While not Perry-esque, it still set up a makeable birdie putt. And heck, that putt may have won him the title.
Cabrera was clutch coming in, even during the playoff. After finding the trees on the first playoff hole, the 18th, his second shot slashed through the woods and onto the fairway. His approach landed again within eight feet. Perry, again, was under two feet from the hole.
Par, this time, and we play a 74th hole. Chad Campbell, the forgotten third part of the playoff, was eliminated when his six-foot par putt clipped the cup, but did not fall in.
One more chance for Perry to fall apart, this time on the 10th. He did, going well left on his approach and chipping it well past the hole to set up an impossible par putt.
Cabrera stuck it on the green and two putted for his first Green Jacket and second major championship.
And now, no more about Perry.
Angel Cabrera won the Green Jacket. He earned it. He played lights out. He played with the resolve of a major champion.
When things got tough, when things looked down and out, Cabrera found his game. Can't say as much about Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson on Sunday.
Sure, they both played great, but every time it looked like they were getting into contention, something went awry. Mickelson found the water on the par three 12th, leading to a double-bogey; Woods ended with a Perry, bogeys on 17 and 18.
But Cabrera fought himself back into contention, smooth and steady, and eventually it was he who won the championship.
And you know what, I'm going to remember that a lot longer than I'll remember that Kenny Perry blew it. Just like I remember Nick Faldo's three Green Jackets a lot quicker than I remember Scott Hoch's choke on the 73rd green.
It is once in a blue moon that you remember the losers, and it takes something more than three bogeys over four holes.
It takes a triple-bogey with a three-shot lead on the final hole; it takes an 11-shot turnaround after losing multiple previous times in utter heartbreak; it takes signing the wrong score when the correct score would have put you in a playoff.
That trumps winning.
But Kenny Perry's collapse? No way. Maybe right now it does, but posterity won't give two hoots.
Just like posterity won't see Kenny Perry donning a Green Jacket.
The flashbacks will say "Angel Cabrera: Masters Champion!" Just the way it should be.
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