My personal bias may creep into this entry on our countdown of the top 25 stories of the year in golf, but Angel Cabrera's approach into the 72nd hole at the Masters was one of the most incredible shots I've ever seen in a major championship. It's been largely lost in the season's many twists and turns since April, but this year's Masters was perhaps the most dramatic finish at Augusta since Jack Nicklaus' win in 1986. Sure, there have been more important and more memorable wins, but that final hour was the perfect ending to one of the more gripping weekends in Masters history.
The finishes by Adam Scott and Cabrera, playing in the back-to-back groups at the end of the tee sheet, left my head spinning and heart racing … and that was before they ever teed it up for extra holes. Scott started things off with what was presumably a green jacket clinching birdie putt, ending his country's curse and his own personal majors drought. Wielding his broomstick putter, Scott improbably bombed in the lengthy putt to break the tie with Cabrera and get to 9-under for the championship. His reaction, and impromptu "C'mon Aussie!" scream was an image and highlight shared more that the actual winner on the 10th green shortly thereafter.
And there was the customary enthusiastic but awkward high-five with caddie Stevie Williams, Tiger's former bagman who had just beat Woods in the race to "win" a major since the prolific pair split.
The pin on No. 18 was in its traditional Sunday placement, and while birdies are more frequent than plodding U.S. Open finishing holes, they are still quite rare. For Scott, the celebration was indicative of someone who had just won his first major, and lifted the burden of years of hype as the next global superstar with immense talent. He had spent recent seasons tumbling down the world rankings before returning to world class form only to keep coming up short on Sunday at the majors. He was just 10 months removed from the catastrophic collapse at the British Open, where he coughed it up to Ernie Els. When that putt went in, he reacted as if he'd finally broken through and the Masters was now his.
But Cabrera, nicknamed El Pato for his nonchalant waddle down the fairway, shrugged his shoulders and came next with an astounding approach shot that immediately stemmed the celebrations from Scott's group around the 18th green. Standing in a steady downpour after watching Scott jump ahead in front of him up on the green, Cabrera really never flinched and the two-time major hit the shot of the week. The Duck would not need to drain a lengthy putt like Scott, as he dropped his ball just a couple feet from the cup for an easy birdie to force the playoff (1:50 mark below):
Cabrera is not really a mainstay on Tour like so many other major championship winners. He's falls off the map for months, and even years at a time. But when a major championship week comes up, he's all of a sudden found his form and he's right there on the first page of the leaderboard. He has only two PGA Tour wins -- a U.S. Open and a Masters. It's an astounding record.
It's unfortunate that it was lost in the shuffle of Scott's eventual win and all the Tiger controversy, but the back-to-back shots provided an unforgettable finish to regulation. When he lost in the playoff, all El Pato could do was shake his head, grin, and hug Scott, who he encouraged and mentored when the Aussie was searching for his game and confidence at the 2009 Presidents Cup.
It's likely we'll see Cabrera and Scott again at other majors, but the 2013 finish at Augusta will be impossible to top. The approach shot this year into the 18th capped the most dramatic five minute stretch, for me, of the entire season.