Perry's Meltdown Casts Shadow Over Masters

It was shaping up to be a Masters for the ages, one to sit right alongside the great Tiger/DiMarco duel in 2005, Phil’s breakthrough in 2004, O’Meara’s redemption in 1998, or even Jack’s miracle in 1986. ↵

↵About a minute after Kenny Perry knocked his tee-shot within inches of the cup on the 16th hole, setting him up for a certain birdie and a two-stroke lead on the field with two holes left to play, I started composing in my head a piece for TSB. It was about how this tournament would join the great majors of the past that are crystallized by a single, unforgettable shot like Tiger’s ridiculous wrap-around chip at Augusta in 2005, or Shaun Micheel’s seven-iron on the 18th at Oak Hill to seal the 2003 PGA. ↵

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↵Fifteen minutes later, though, I was composing a much different piece in my head. That magical tee-shot at 16 was the last bit of pixie dust that Perry could summon from his bag yesterday. After that, just about everything he did turned to crap, and in the end he ceded the green jacket in a sudden-death playoff to the jolly Argentinian, Angel Cabrera. ↵

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↵Consequently, a tournament that looked like it was a lock to go down in the annals as one of the most exciting and varied majors of all time now is relegated to a different category altogether -- those major championships that we remember not for how magnificently they were won, but for how agonizingly they were lost. ↵

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↵To put it in perspective, this is not a Greg Norman-level collapse we’re talking about here. And it won’t be categorized as Van de Veldean either, a sorry category indeed named after the hard-luck Frenchman who forever will be synonymous with “choke artist” after dropping a three-stroke lead in a disastrous 72nd hole at the British Open 10 years ago at Carnoustie. They had already etched Van de Velde’s name on the Claret Jug. ↵

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↵So, no, Perry’s demise yesterday is not on a par with a whopper like that (nothing is quite on a par with that). In execution, Perry’s choke-job belongs more with Phil Mickelson’s from three years ago at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. But it’s a little worse than that one, actually, because of the circumstances. Forty-eight years young, Perry does not own a major title where Phil already has three, and while Phil likely will contend for many more majors in his career, this very well may prove to be Perry’s last shot at such glorious heights. ↵

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↵All of this is not to take anything away from Cabrera, a worthy and likable champion who hung in yesterday through an up-and-down round where he clearly did not have his A-game. That said, would anyone really claim that Cabrera won the Masters yesterday, in the active sense of the word? In the same way that Geoff Ogilvy didn’t go out and win at Winged Foot, or Paul Lawrie didn’t seize the moment at Carnoustie in 1999, Cabrera didn’t win his green jacket so much as he backed into it on the coattails of another man’s collapse. It was Perry’s to win, and he blew it royally. ↵

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↵Sadly, after a remarkable day that saw a thrilling mano-a-mano charge from the game’s top two players and a leaderboard in constant flux with the names of major champions past rising and falling and rising again, what we will remember first and foremost from the 2009 Masters is that Kenny Perry, one of the nicest guys in golf, had a miracle in his grasp and let it slip away. It leaves a bitter taste, to put it mildly. ↵

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↵(P.S. Perry isn’t the only one playing a torturous game of “what might have been?” today. As you may or may not recall, I had 20 smackers on Chad Campbell to win at 100-1. So holms goes ahead and makes the playoff just to tease me and then lips out a four-footer for par on the first hole of sudden death and goes gently into that good night. I was sick. I’m like, “Chad, baby, do you realize how much money you just cost us?” And see, the thing is, one of us is not already a millionaire.) ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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