Masters champion Adam Scott is hoping he can sweep up the Claret Jug at Muirfield – even if golf’s ruling bodies decide to ban broomhandled putters and belly putters.
The 32-year-old Australian beat Angel Cabrera in a dramatic play-off to become the fourth player using a long putter to land a victory in the last six majors.
He now faces an anxious wait to find out if the R&A and USGA will press ahead with a proposal to ban anchoring, with a decision on that believed to be imminent. “We are all waiting to hear what’s going to happen and I don’t know if this is going to have an impact on any decisions upcoming,” said Scott after becoming the first Australian to win at Augusta National.
His putting has been transformed since he started using a long putter and, with the proposed ban not due to come into effect until the start of 2016, he’ll still be free to use that when The Open is played in East Lothian in July – whatever the decision.
Ernie Els used a belly putter to claim the Claret Jug at Lytham last July – and pipped Scott to the title in the process – a month after Webb Simpson had won the US Open using a similar club. Those successes all came on the back of Keegan Bradley becoming the first player to win a major with a belly putter as he claimed the 2011 USPGA Championship.
“My feeling is that it was inevitable that big tournaments would be won with this equipment,” said Scott. “These are the best players in the world and they practice thousands of hours. They are going to get good with whatever they are using. It’s inevitable.”
Scott held a five-shot lead heading into the back nine at Lytham but missed out on a first major after dropping shots at the final four holes. He’s taken just two more attempts to erase that memory after emerging triumphant at the end of an enthralling final day in Georgia.
In wet conditions, Cabrera, the 2009 champion, held a two-shot lead entering the back nine. Another Aussie, Jason Day, then found himself in the same position with three holes to play before dropping shots at the 16th and 17th.
Playing the last, Scott and Cabrera, President’s Cup team-mates in the past, were locked together on eight-under. Scott thought he’d won it when he rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt across the green. But Cabrera, playing in the last group, forced a play-off by hitting his second to three feet.
The 43-year-old Argentinian almost claimed a second Green Jacket and third major in total when his chip at the first play-off hole shaved the cup.
He did the same with a birdie putt at the next before Scott rolled in a 12-footer to become the first player from Down Under to win the event.
“What an incredible day,” said the champion. “Everything fell my way in the end, I guess, and you just never know.
“I just kept plugging away. I didn’t know if it was going to happen through nine. But a good back nine here solves a lot and gives you a chance. I’m just so proud of myself and everyone around me who has helped me.”
A big help on his winning putt was caddie Steve Williams, who was also at Tiger Woods’ side as a winner here and knows the course like the back of his hand.
“I could hardly see the tenth green in the darkness,” admitted Scott. “I was struggling to read the putt so I gave Steve the call over.
“I don’t get him to read too many putts because I felt like I was reading them good. But I said, ‘do you think it’s just more than a cup? “He said, ‘it’s at least two cups, it’s going to break more than you think’.
“I said, ‘I’m good with that’. He was my eyes on that putt. I started on line and managed to hang in and go in the left half.
“He’s seen a lot of putts at this golf course; somewhere he might have been able to recall that one – it was unbelievable read.”
By far the biggest help in Scott’s career has been Greg Norman, who had a great chance to win a Green Jacket in 1996 but squandered a six-shot lead on the final day.
“He inspired a nation of golfers, anyone near to my age, older and younger,” he said of his compatriot and mentor. “He was the best player in the world and he was an icon in Australia. Everything about the way he handled himself was incredible to have as a role model.
“Just that was enough, but he’s devoted so much time to myself and other young Australian players who came after him. He’s been incredibly generous. Most of us would feel that he could have slipped a green jacket on, for sure, and part of this is for him because he’s given me so much time and inspiration and belief.
“I drew on that a lot today. I managed to stay in each shot when I needed to.”
Scott (69) and Cabrera (70) finished on nine-under, two ahead of Day (70), with Tiger Woods also closing with a two-under effort to share fourth with Marc Leishman (72).
Paul Lawrie (71) was top Scot in a tie for 38th while Sandy Lyle, 25 years after becoming the first British winner, closed with the same score to finish joint 54th.