AUGUSTA - There were so many ways this most thrilling of Masters could have ended.
What if Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson had carried their duel into a playoff? Now that would have turned Augusta National upside down.
Or how about Kenny Perry, the ultimate grinder, winning his first major at an age when most players are prepping for the senior tour? Boy, that would have been something.
Instead, it was a burly man from Argentina who crafted an ending no one could have envisioned. Down at the 10th green, long after Woods and Mickelson had headed for exits and dragged many of the patrons with them, Angel Cabrera barely beat the setting sun with a gimme of a putt as Perry looked on helplessly.
OK, it wasn't Hollywood.
But Cabrera sure earned it.
When his swing got loose and produced two straight bogeys on the front side, he hung in there. When he faced a two-stroke deficit with two holes to play, he didn't give up. And, most impressively, when his first tee shot of the sudden-death playoff rolled to a stop behind a big tree on the first playoff hole, he never lost hope.
'I only had a spot like this big' - meaning tiny - 'and only trees, so I've got to put it through there, that's it,' Cabrera said, a translator relaying his words. 'Easy as that.'
Cabrera hooked his ball around one tree but struck another, and was fortunate to see it carom to the left and out into the fairway, a sand wedge away from the green. He knocked it up to 8 feet behind the hole, and made the putt to save a remarkable par. Perry messed up his approach and had to settle for par, too. The third member of the playoff, Chad Campbell, missed his 6-footer and the race was down to two.
Only one more hole was needed. Perry found mud on his ball in the middle of the 10th fairway, and his shot veered left of the green. Cabrera knocked his below the hole and - for perhaps the first time all day - he was finally the one in command. Perry's chip raced past the flag, and he missed the putt coming back.
Perry didn't even get a chance to finish. Cabrera's putt stopped next to the hole. He marked it, took a quick look to make sure there was nothing on it, and calmly delivered the winning stroke on his second career major.
At Oakmont two years ago, Cabrera stared down Woods and Jim Furyk to win the U.S. Open. Now he has joined the green jacket club and wiped out any perception that his first major title was a fluke.
'I was happy with my game and I had confidence,' Cabrera said after a closing 71 left him at 12-under 276. 'I was just trying to enjoy the moment.'