Perry’s stumble opens door for Cabrera

AUGUSTA — Kenny Perry had his best moment in golf when he helped lead the United States to a win in last year’s Ryder Cup in his home state of Kentucky.

The 48-year-old might have found his worst moment Sunday.

Two holes away from being the oldest major winner in golf history, Perry bogeyed the final two holes of the Masters and eventually lost to Angel Cabrera on the second playoff hole to give the Argentina native his second major championship. Chad Campbell also made it to the three-man playoff after the three finished 72 holes at 12 under, but he was eliminated after bogeying the first playoff hole.

“I had the tournament to win,” said Perry, minutes before Cabrera became the first Argentine and first South American to slip on the green jacket. “I lost the tournament.”

Cabrera, who also won the 2007 U.S. Open, made a short par putt on No. 10 for the win just before the sun set and less than two hours after Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods electrified the crowd by getting in the hunt with rounds of 5 under and 4 under, respectively.

But Cabrera’s name ultimately stood atop the leaderboard, ending a drama-packed Sunday that likely silenced any critics who claimed the Masters didn’t pack excitement anymore.

“This is the Masters,” Cabrera said through a translator. “It’s a course that you can do a lot of birdies, a lot of bogeys. A lot of magical things happen. It’s simply the Masters.”

Cabrera’s win came only after he survived a bad tee shot that went into the trees on the first playoff hole. He tried to hit his second shot on No. 18 through a narrow gap, but it hit a tree and got a lucky bounce to squirt out on the fairway. Cabrera, who is called “El Pato” or “The Duck” by countryman Andres Romero because of his waddling walk, got up-and-down from there to save par and stay alive in the playoff.

Perry couldn’t recover from his own wild second shot on the second playoff hole and had a bad chip that left him with a lengthy par putt that he missed.

Instead of claiming his first major championship, Perry lost for the second time in a major championship playoff following his loss to Mark Brooks in the 1996 PGA Championship at Valhalla Country Club.

“I just didn’t get the job done again, and I’ll look back the rest of my life saying, ‘What could have been,’ ” Perry said.

Perry seemed in cruise control after parring the first 11 holes. He missed at least three makeable birdie putts in that stretch but finally came through with birdies on Nos. 12 and 15 to get to 13 under and lead Campbell by one stroke. On the par-3 16th hole, Perry hit one of the great shots in tournament history when he stuck his tee shot within five inches of the cup. His birdie tap-in gave him a two-shot lead with two holes to play.

But Perry hit a bad chip that resulted in a bogey on No. 17 and then hit his tee shot in the fairway bunker on No. 18. He had a makeable par putt to save par on the 72nd hole to win the tournament, but he missed a few inches to the left.

“I had that putt on 18 that I’ve seen Tiger make it, I’ve seen so many people make that putt,” Perry said. “I knew exactly what it was. That was probably the most disappointing putt of the day because I hit it too easy. You know what, you’ve got to give that putt a run. I mean, how many chances do you have to win the Masters?”

Cabrera, however, stayed close with birdies on Nos. 13, 15 and 16 to get to 12 under, a number he posted earlier on No. 3 before bogeys sent him back to 9 under early on the back nine.

Cabrera, who was tied for the lead with Perry heading into Sunday’s final round, seemed the unlikeliest of winners midway through the back nine. Perry pushed into cruise control with his run of birdies, and even after Perry’s slide on the final two holes, Campbell looked most likely to benefit.

The Texan missed a makeable birdie putt on No. 18 that would have won the tournament. He also was in the best position of any of the three players on the first playoff hole after Cabrera went into the woods with his tee shot and Perry came up short and right of the green on his second shot. But Campbell, who was tied for the lead through 36 holes, hit his approach in the bunker. He missed his par putt after getting out of the bunker and was eliminated from the playoff.

“I just pushed the putt,” Campbell said. “It was a left-edge putt and just kind of left the blade open.”

It turned out that Cabrera’s major championship experience paid off, as he was the only of the three players not to suffer from his mishaps.

“I think I’m more prepared,” Cabrera said. “I think the U.S. Open got me by surprise. This win, I’m more prepared. I am more aware of where things happen.”

Cabrera’s win will likely ease some of the pain from countryman Roberto De Vicenzo’s near win in 1968. De Vicenzo signed an incorrect scorecard to miss out on a playoff with Bob Goalby.

De Vincenzo gave Cabrera a frame of a photograph that shows the 1968 Masters runner-up with a green jacket in his hand. He told Cabrera, “I hope this gives you luck so some day you can bring back a green jacket for yourself.”

Mickelson and Woods stole the show early in the day. The top-ranked players in the world dazzled Augusta National Golf Club for much of the day, setting forth on a torrid pace to climb back into contention at the Masters.

The gallery surrounded the Americans was four and five times the size of the one following the leaders.

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