It looked like 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.
Then came his stunning collapse, the second time he has lost a major in a playoff. The other time was 13 years ago at Valhalla, which has haunted Perry the rest of his career.
“I’m not going to feel sorry,” Perry said. “If this is the worst thing that happens to me, I can live with it. I really can. Great players get it done, and Angel got it done. This is his second major he won. I’ve blown two. But that’s the only two I’ve had chances of winning.”
Despite all the cheers and excitement that returned to the Masters, no one really lit up the back nine the way Jack Nicklaus did when he won in 1986, or Mickelson and Ernie Els did in 2004.
But the possibility was there, and that’s all that mattered. All afternoon, there was endless chatter about who would make the big charge on the back nine.
Mickelson didn’t bother waiting that long.
His charge came on the front nine, a record-tying 30 as he raced up the leaderboard and delighted a massive gallery with four consecutive birdies. The most significant came at No. 7, when he powered a shot around the trees to inside a foot.
Fans who stood a dozen-deep behind the green were jumping and waving their arms, a scene that looked more like a Duke-North Carolina basketball game than staid, proper Augusta National.
It was perfect timing — and perfect location.
About 40 yards down the hill, Cabrera played his pitch to the par-5 second just as the loudest cheer of early afternoon shook the pines.
For the final pairing at the Masters, Cabrera and Perry didn’t get much attention. Their gallery was thin, about one-fifth the size of the mass following Woods and Mickelson. There was no energy. No birdies, either.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Padraig Harrington, whose bid for a third straight major officially ended with a 73 to finish even par for the week, 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,” Larry Mize said. “That’s what you love about this place.”
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