Baker-Finch remembers Scott’s Masters triumph
For millions of Australians on that fateful Monday morning nearly 12 months ago, the march to a first-ever victory by an Australian at The Masters was being played out in ‘typical’ fashion; a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows which appeared again to be destined to end in more tragedy.
Jason Day holed a bunker shot for an eagle at the 2nd at Augusta National and he appeared most likely to be the one to break the duck after continuing on to play some stoic golf on the final day.
Day held the lead at the 16th hole but when he three-putted from the soggy apron of the green beyond the hole, déjà vu was a common sense being experienced in lounge rooms everywhere.
The only difference this time around was that on this occasion, it was another Australian who took the lead and would eventually prevail but not before yet more heart-stopping moments in a two-hole playoff fiercely contested in falling rain and fading light.
When Adam Scott reached skywards after eclipsing the brave Angel Cabrera, the first Australian voice a delirious Australian audience would hear was that of an equally emotional Ian Baker-Finch, the 1991 British Open champion, in commentary for CBS.
“It was a truly memorable time for me, not just in my time in broadcasting but in the history of Australian golf, to watch Adam Scott win The Masters.” Baker-Finch said recently.
“It’s one of the highlights of my announcing career because he’s such a good friend and I know the family so well. It just added to the emotion and he just thoroughly deserves the tag, the mantle, the position of being the first Australian to win.”
“He’ll handle the status that’s been bestowed on him with great aplomb, as he’s already done as you know over the past 12 months.”
For Baker-Finch, the emotion he felt resonates now as it did then when he was caught off guard on the telecast.
“Holes 18 and 10 (for the playoff) are not my holes on the CBS telecast, Jim Nantz takes those holes. It’s tricky for me because once the players go through 12 and 13, I’m off air. My microphone is not on to just say something whenever I want; I have to get invited in.”
“At CBS, they have us all on towers on every hole and I’m in a prestige position there at Amen Corner. The downside of that is once I’m finished, I’m out there in the dark in this tower on my own with my headset on watching events transpire on a little monitor.”
“When Jim Nantz did invite me in to comment after Scott won, it was difficult to speak because I was so caught up in it all. I didn’t realise how emotional I was when I had the chance to say something.”
Baker-Finch vividly remembers how much noise there was around the golf course as the players made their way down the second playoff hole, even from his position many hundred of metres away on his tower at Amen Corner.
“I’ve spoken to Adam about it and he said it was so noisy, he and Angel couldn’t talk to each other. When Adam hit that cut 6-iron off the side slope on 10 and Angel gave him the thumbs up, they couldn’t hear each other and that was really the only way that they could communicate.”
“The sportsmanship between the two was fantastic. They’re both good friends, Presidents Cup teammates and played a lot of golf together. Angel has won a green jacket already so it probably didn’t hurt him too badly but he handled himself really well.”
I asked Baker-Finch if he or any of the other Australians at Augusta had the chance after the various presentation ceremonies and media commitments to see Scott and share in the moment. Sadly, the late finish to the event and with the weather turning for the worst, he did not.
“I was down on the 12th in the dark and the rain and by the time I got back to the CBS compound afterwards, it was all over. It was pouring with rain and there was a big storm closing in so I flew home to Florida at about 9.30 that night.”
“I talked to Adam the next day and shared phone calls and texts with his father Phil. ‘Grades’ (Wayne Grady) was also there working for BBC but whether he got a chance to see Adam afterwards, I don’t know.”
Baker-Finch will return to CBS’ Masters Commentary team in 2014 and is again confident of the chances of the Australian contingent headed by Scott and Day, pointing out how many times over the past few years an Aussie has contended at Augusta.
The Queenslander recalled the epic Masters of 2011, when Scott, Day and Geoff Ogilvy were in the top five behind South African Charl Schwartzel, and Stuart Appleby held the lead into the final round some years earlier.
“I thought Jason would win last year when he got in front but he just didn’t get it done in the closing stages. I think the next time he gets in that position, he will win.” Baker-Finch said.
“I interviewed Adam for CBS down at Doral just the other week and he’s really relaxed and in good shape. The ominous thing is that he’s feeling very confident with the putter.”
“He said he’s putting really, really well which is a good sign going into Augusta.”
Although he faltered with the blade in the final round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Scott’s play for the three rounds prior proved that point beyond all doubt.