Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since
As people have always said around here, the Masters doesn't begin until the final 2 1/2 holes on Sunday.
Of course you know that's not what they say. The bromide really goes, "The Masters doesn't begin until the back nine on Sunday."
What Sunday showed, and what the sport of golf continues to prove, is that cliches don't apply anymore. There are so many variables and so many good players these days, you cannot fit the game into a neat package. And you definitely cannot predict it.
Severe apologies from this peanut stand if you clairvoyantly had said a 14-year-old would make the cut, a 43-year-old grandfather ranked 269th in the world would come within a fraction of an inch of winning, and the green jacket would be worn for the first time by an Australian after the first-ever playoff between two guys who had birdied the 18th hole.
You probably did not forecast that. Join the club. Golf is different, and hard to figure now. Late Sunday, it also was pretty darned good.
The way Adam Scott, the winner, and Angel Cabrera, the runner-up, finished in regulation and conducted the playoff was exhilarating, and nearly flawless. Truth be told, it saved this Masters.
Until then, it had been a newsworthy fortnight, but not terribly inspiring. When the top two stories at a tournament are a slow-play penalty against a 14-year-old (Tianlang Guan) and a two-stroke violation penalty against the greatest player of the era (Tiger Woods), you don't have such a hot tournament.
The slow greens, gray skies and steady rain cast dullness over Augusta National. But the final 45 minutes outshone everything else and salvaged the whole week.
Scott got the green jacket, which was itself a nice story. But Cabrera should get a ton of credit for making it so compelling. His extraordinary approach shot on No. 18, right after Scott had made a putt to go ahead, and his cup-buzzing chip on 18 and putt on 10 in the two-hole sudden-death playoff turned this from a muddled Masters into a masterful one.
It helps that the guy is a character, with his 269th-place ranking, his two-major championship history, his son on the bag, his stocky physique, his physical regimen. For a while, it looked as if he were going to compound the celebration in Argentina, which is still excited about the election of Pope Francis. Had Cabrera won, it would have been marked by a puff of white smoke -- from one of his cigarettes.
"I like the challenges," the golfing grandfather said through an interpreter. "So these tournaments are very, very important for me. Sometimes they [bring] my best out of me."
He showed class in congratulating Scott, in the fairway, on the shot that ultimately would help beat him. "He's been looking for it, searching for it, this major title," Cabrera said.
Then again, Cabrera is Exhibit A on why it was hard for someone such as Scott to break through. If No. 269 is in the hunt, it's all up for grabs. Luke Donald, a top player who still is without a major, said, "I do think it's a lot harder to win these days because the fields are so stacked."
Stacked or not, until late Sunday, this Masters had been defined by the officials' decision on Woods. An outside rules expert said the committee came to the right conclusion by the wrong route.
The whole tournament could be described the same way. The ride was bumpy, the finish was great.