But Day’s tee shot at 16 carried over the green. On Saturday, Day held the lead headed into the final two holes, and bogeyed them both. On Sunday, he made bogeys at 16 and 17, and at a more critical moment, his lead evaporated.
“Obviously,” he said, “I think pressure got to me a little bit.”
At one point, it appeared to get to Cabrera, the 2009 champion here, because he inexplicably hit his approach at the 13th from pine straw to water, leading to a bogey on a birdie hole. The pressure, in the past, had undeniably worn on Scott. Two years ago, he and Day tied for second here, when Charl Schwartzel blew past them both. That, and his pulverizing loss to Ernie Els last summer taught Scott he could — and should — be in this spot again, ready to embrace the elements, not cower from them.
“Everything I said after the Open is how I felt, and I meant it,” Scott said. “It did give me the belief that I could win a major. It proved to me, in fact, that I could.”
By the time he and Cabrera approached their final holes, there would be no giveaways, no goats. Scott, playing in the penultimate group, came to the 18th green tied with Cabrera, a group behind, at 8 under. He faced a putt of just outside 20 feet, the putt any competitor here knows has won so many previous Masters.
“It’s time for me to step up and see how much I want this,” Scott said he thought to himself, and the guttural scream he unleashed when it fell showed just how much. He led by one.
Cabrera, in the fairway right then, saw the putt, heard the roar, watched the celebration. And he responded. His 7-iron from 163 yards checked up all of 21
2 feet from the pin. He made his birdie. It was on.
“The only one thing in my head,” Cabrera said, “was about winning.”
Only beautiful golf remained. On the first playoff hole, the 18th again, both players fell short of the green. Both hit superlative chips. Both made par, and turned to the 10th.
“Going down the 10th fairway, it was almost deafening,” Scott said. And when Scott followed Cabrera’s exceptional approach shot with his own splendid response, Cabrera turned to Scott and gave him a thumbs-up. Scott responded in kind. Respect — and even fun — somehow surfaced through the tension.
From there, only the putts remained. Cabrera’s was uphill, slightly right to left. “Those things can just as easily go in as stay out,” Scott said. It didn’t, all but hanging on the edge.
“That’s golf,” Cabrera said.
For once, Scott’s was the putt that fell. For once, he had his moment — a celebration on the green, a hug with caddie Steve Williams, an embrace with his father, and the salves that soothed the wounds of his home country, all the way around the world.