Scott shows how to win with style

Humble Australian's victory at the Masters should be cause for celebration not only in his homeland but also around the world

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 April, 2013, 6:12am

The trees get fuller, the grass gets greener. The air gets heavier and the mood gets lighter. There are a number of tangible indicators that herald the end of winter. For golf fans, though, nothing arouses the slumber like the Masters. From the grass to the jackets, everything is green again.

Of course, this annual get-together at Augusta National is more than a bit contrived. The people who run it are elitist and unabashedly so. The course is impossibly radiant and impeccable. The music on TV is totally overwrought and the continual fawning of the broadcasters in reverential, hushed tones is artificially enhanced to the point of nausea. But most things seem staged these days, so why quibble.

Come Sunday at the Masters, not even the high and mighty green jackets of Augusta National can control the narrative anymore. It's in the hands of the golfers and because of that the 2013 Masters will go down as one of the most riveting and enjoyable sporting events ever.

Tiger Woods came in as the prohibitive favourite, so much so that Sports Illustrated put him on the cover with a one word headline: "Back". But even Tiger knows that until he wins his first major since 2008, he is not even close to being back and his performance at Augusta did little to alter that perception. He would tease and tantalise but finish with a slew of regrets.

With Tiger officially out of the way, it was time for the true drama provided by a couple of Aussies, Adam Scott and Justin Day, and the indefatigable Angel Cabrera. A burly Argentine, Cabrera does not walk the golf course, he stalks it. After Scott holed a birdie putt on the 18th green to seemingly seal the deal, Cabrera calmly hit his approach shot on the 18th a mere foot or two away from the pin to force extra holes. On the second extra hole, Scott would drain a life-altering 12-foot putt to win.

But of all the memorable performances, few can touch that of China's 14-year-old Guan Tianlang. After a controversial one-stroke penalty for slow play Guan still managed to make the cut. However, it was the class and composure he showed in dealing with the penalty that garnered gushing reviews from a global audience. He showed so much poise that he did more to put China in a positive and non-threatening light internationally than any of the soulless leaders in Beijing could ever dream of.

In the end, this was a truly seminal moment for Australia. Arguably the greatest sporting nation on the planet, this was their official inclusion into one of sports' most exclusive clubs. Australia is a brash and sprawling country that has never been shy about its success. It's not enough to win; you have to let your opponents know they lost as well and it's a proprietary ethos perpetuated by some of the country's most beloved sporting heroes.

And yet it seems odd that Scott would be the one to restore a great deal of national pride. After all, if anybody is worthy of sticking it in your face it would be a guy who is nature's nobleman.

Extremely talented and successful, his chiselled good looks seemed to have been designed by a committee of women. Yet despite all that, Scott's stoic dignity and affability are his calling cards and always have been.

He does not speak in an indecipherable dingo dialect, and doesn't stick an O on the end of every word either. He is first and foremost a respectful competitor whose competitive fire burns within. His meltdown at last year's British Open, where he squandered a four-shot lead with four holes to play to lose to Ernie Els, was cause for great consternation and derision in his home country.

He was routinely labelled as soft and lacking in the proper intestinal fortitude necessary to win the big one. His calm and tranquil manner in post-tournament interviews seemed to enrage many Aussies even more. But it's just not his way to belabour the negatives. This is a kid who can teach all of us about relishing the moment, about living in the present and not the past or future.

When asked if his proud country's futility at the Masters and his own frustrations at majors were on his mind on the final day, Scott replied no. "I stayed right where I was today," he said. "I stayed in that one shot." And that is not just how to golf. It's how to live life.