Cabrera Wins Masters 3-Way Playoff

Golfer Angel Cabrera is this year's winner of the Masters in Augusta, Georgia. The tournament came down to a three-way playoff. Cabrera is the 2007 winner of the U.S. Open.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The Masters golf tournament had one of its most dramatic finishes in recent memory yesterday. And the winner is someone you may not have heard of. Angel Cabrera of Argentina claimed the traditional winner's green jacket in a sudden death playoff. From Augusta, Georgia, NPR's Tom Goldman reports.

TOM GOLDMAN: Before the Masters began, the cry heard around the golf world was - where's the drama? Changes to the Augusta National Golf Course and bad April weather had combined, the past couple of years, to suck the life out of the tournament. But in one sun-splashed day, the men with green sport coats who run Augusta National saw their pride and joy tournament redeemed.

Thousands of spectators, called patrons by Augusta decree, were left limp from an overdose of drama. The story of yesterday's riveting final round can be told in cheers and roars and, yes, groans, those cherished noises that had always defined Masters Sunday.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GOLDMAN: That was the reaction on hole 16 where Kenny Perry, a 48-year-old from Kentucky, who'd led the tournament since early on, grabbed a two-stroke lead with two holes to play. A self-described nice guy and a fan favorite, Perry was poised to win his first major title.

But of course golf is a capricious game - he lost a stroke on the next hole and led by one, as he and playing partner Angel Cabrera walked up the 18th and final fairway. Minutes later, Perry had a moment that's every golfer's fantasy: lining up a 15-foot putt for victory at Augusta.

This putt is to win the Masters.

(Soundbite of crowd)

Mr. KENNY PERRY (Golfer): I had that putt on 18 that - I've seen Tiger make it, I've seen so many people make that putt. I knew exactly what it was. That was probably the most disappointing putt of the day because I hit it too easy, I just, you know, you've got to give that putt a run. I mean, how many chances do you have to win the Masters? So…

GOLDMAN: As it turned out, one more. After Perry's miss, Cabrera sank a clutch putt to force a sudden death playoff with Perry and Chad Campbell. The three of them teed off on the 18th hole again. Cabrera hit onto the green to almost the exact spot where he'd been the hole before when he sank that clutch putt. He lined up again, needing to sink it again, to stay alive in the playoff.

(Soundbite of cheering and clapping)

GOLDMAN: Did it again, just like 18 in regulation. Almost the exact putt. He drained it, pumped his fist, smiled to the crowd, goes over and gives Kenny Perry a high-five. This is getting good.

It would end quickly, though. On the next hole, with Campbell eliminated from the playoff, Perry made a mistake on his second shot and Cabrera played error free. His victory was sudden and surprising, as he had slipped down the leader board earlier in the day at a time when the world's two best golfers were having a noise fest of their own.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GOLDMAN: Number two-ranked Phil Mickelson went on a tear early, scoring six birdies on the first nine holes. He was in a dream pairing with world number one and supposed rival Tiger Woods. They both made a run at the lead but then faltered down the stretch. Mickelson talked about a four-foot putt he blew and revealed even the best have moments of indecision.

Mr. PHIL MICKELSON (Golfer): I thought that initially it was going to break left, and then I saw Tiger's putt go up to the hole and move right at the end. I thought, oh, I don't know. Maybe it doesn't do that. And I didn't trust the read and made a very tentative stroke.

GOLDMAN: He's be forgiven by the thousands who bellowed his name Sunday and by the men in green jackets who watched smiling as Tiger, Phil, Angel and Kenny put the Masters back on track.

Tom Goldman, NPR News, Augusta.

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