AUGUSTA – A day after the conclusion of the 2009 Masters, one can only imagine what the headlines should have been:
"Holy Tiger! Woods makes history on way to 5th Masters win"
"Fantastic Phil! Mickelson’s final-round 62 captures his 3rd green jacket"
"Ageless Perry wins 3-way Masters playoff to take first major title"
Instead, we got “Cabrera wins Masters in playoff,” as seen on the homepage of statesboroherald.com and throughout news outlets across the country.
This 2009 Masters final round had it all. It had the adrenaline packed surges from the game’s greatest players, dueling in the game’s greatest arena. It had the sentimental favorite, 48-year-old Kenny Perry, leading for most of the day after acknowledging “this will probably be the last chance I get” the day before. It had a historic playoff, the first three-way version since 1987, with Americans Perry and Chad Campbell searching for their first major championship.
In the end though, when the glamour and grace, power and revelry of the moment was dusted off, it had the pot-bellied Argentinean winning the grand prize.
It was a moment that left Augusta in shock, with Spanish-speaking celebrations erupting within small factions of the crowd for the first time all week.
“That’s why they play the game,” one father told his young son walking out of Augusta National. Another woman whispered to her husband, “I’ve never seen this many people so mad.”
It was, in a word, weird. At least 95 percent of those 10-deep along the ropes in the playoff were cheering openly for Perry, and that’s when people were actually watching the final pairing. Before Woods and Mickelson floundered to a finish in front of a small country of people, the Perry-Cabrera crowd was sparse.
“Is anyone watching Cabrera,” a man walking quickly up a back nine fairway in the Tiger-Phil frenzy asked his friend. Only somewhat sarcastically, the friend replied, “Yes, nine people, including his parents.”
If anything, the conclusion of the 2009 Masters reminded us that sports are not about the fairytale endings for the fans or the headlines for the newspapers. Sports are about winning on the field, court, or course, and despite playing pin-ball with the pines in the playoff, Angel Cabrera made the shots to win.
It was the surprise ending Hollywood will never write.