Cabrera tops Perry in Masters playoff

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The Masters delivered the show everyone wanted and a champion no one expected.

Angel Cabrera became the first Argentine to win the green jacket at Augusta National on Sunday by surviving a wild final round that began with a supercharged duel between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and ended with a stunning collapse by Kenny Perry.

Indeed, this Masters had it all.

Two shots behind with two holes to play, Cabrera fought his way into a three-way playoff when the 48-year-old Perry, on the verge of becoming golf's oldest major champion, bogeyed the final two holes.

Even in a playoff, Cabrera looked like the odd man out.

He drove into the trees, hit another shot off a Georgia pine, but still scrambled for par with an 8-foot putt. He won with a routine par on the 10th hole when Perry missed the green badly to the left and made yet another bogey, this one the most costly of them all.

Cabrera, who won the U.S. Open at Oakmont two years ago, finally earned a green jacket for Argentina.

It was 41 years ago when Roberto de Vicenzo made one of golf's most famous gaffes, signing for the wrong score that denied him a spot in a Masters playoff.

De Vicenzo gave him a picture of a green jacket two years ago when Cabrera returned home as U.S. Open champion and told him to go for it. On this turbulent day, it took everything Cabrera had.

"This is a great moment, the dream of any golfer to win the Masters," Cabrera said through an interpreter during the green jacket ceremony. "I'm so emotional I can barely talk."

He closed with a 1-under 71 to get into the first three-man playoff at the Masters in 22 years.

Chad Campbell finished with a 69 and was eliminated on the first playoff hole when he found a bunker from the middle of the 18th fairway, then watched his 6-foot par putt lip out of the hole.

The final hour was almost enough to make a dizzy gallery forget about the Woods-Mickelson fireworks earlier.

Perry did not make a birdie until his 20-foot putt on the 12th curled into the side of the cup. Campbell, playing in the group ahead, narrowly missed two eagle putts on the back nine to forge a brief share of the lead.

It looked as if Perry had the green jacket buttoned up when he hit his tee shot to within a foot of the cup on the par-3 16th hole for a two-shot lead over Campbell and Cabrera, who made an 18-foot birdie putt on the 16th just to stay in the game.

But after going 22 consecutive holes without a bogey, he made two at the worst time.

From behind the 17th green, Perry's chip was too firm and tumbled off the front of the green for a bogey. Then he hit the biggest tee shot of his life into the left bunker on the 18th, pulled his approach left of the green, and missed his 15-foot putt for par.

"I had a putt to win," Perry said. "I've seen so many people make that putt. I hit it too easy. You've got to give that putt a run. How many chances do you have to win the Masters?"

Cabrera needed help from Perry just to get into the playoff, and it looked as though Cabrera wouldn't last long.

Perry and Campbell were in the 18th fairway, while the Argentine hit his tee shot directly behind a tree. Trying to hook it out of trouble, he struck a tree and was fortunate that the ball ricocheted into the fairway.

Perry chunked his shot, short and to the right. Campbell also went to the right, into a bunker. Cabrera hit his third shot to 8 feet and pumped his fist when he holed it for an unlikely par.

When he arrived at his ball in the 10th fairway for the second extra hole, Perry noticed mud on his ball and feared it would go left. It went farther than he imagined, tumbling down a swale, and he flashed a wistful smile. He knew his Masters bid was most likely over.

Cabrera, who finished at 12-under 276, became only the sixth player to win multiple majors this decade.

For the final pairing at the Masters, Cabrera and Perry didn't get much attention. Their gallery was about one-fifth the size of the mass following Woods and Mickelson.

Padraig Harrington, who lost a bid for a third straight major, looked over to see Perry and Cabrera make the turn.

"There's hardly anybody watching the leaders," he said.

But they got plenty of attention later, after the Woods-Mickelson circus left town.

"It's sure nice to hear the roars coming back out here," said 1987 Masters champ Larry Mize. "That's what you love about this place."