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By Larry Fine
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Angel Cabrera came to Augusta National ranked a lowly 269th but once again showed his tenacity with a major title on the line before falling inches short in a playoff loss to Adam Scott at the Masters on Sunday.
Cabrera, who won the 2007 U.S. Open with Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk in hot pursuit and captured the 2009 Masters in a three-way playoff, came up big in do-or-die moments in a thrilling, rain-drenched duel with Scott at Augusta National.
The burly 43-year-old Argentine, who plunged down golf's world rankings after struggling through health problems, forgot his troubles with another major crown within his grasp.
"The only one thing in my head was about winning," said Cabrera. "I like the challenges, and so these tournaments are very, very important for me. So sometimes they take my best out of me."
A pair of bogeys after the turn dropped Cabrera from top of the leaderboard, but he clawed back with a firm, 15-foot birdie putt at the par-three 16th to tie Scott for the lead at eight under par.
When Scott, 32, drained a 25-foot putt for birdie in the group ahead of Cabrera to break their tie at the 72nd hole and roar in delight as he moved his score to nine under par, the Argentine responded.
With rain pouring down, he fired a perfect seven iron within three feet of the cup and matched Scott's birdie to force a sudden-death playoff, embracing his son Angel Cabrera Jr., who caddied for him.
He nearly ended the playoff when they played 18 again in the first extra hole, running a chip shot agonizingly close to the right edge of the cup, settling just a foot away.
They moved to the 10th hole for Round Two of their sudden-death battle, and both players reached the green in regulation.
Cabrera, was 18 feet away with Scott three feet closer.
The Argentine rolled his right-to-left birdie try with near perfection.
"I think it almost hit the edge of the hole," he said.
Scott buried his birdie putt in the heart of the hole and their high-stakes joust ended in a long hug between the two Presidents Cup team mates.
"That's golf," Cabrera said. "Golf gives and takes. Sometimes you make those putts, sometimes you just miss them. But that's golf."
"I played very well both holes. I wasn't lucky, but I was very much into this playoff."
Cabrera, 43, has clawed his way back from a string of health problems since winning the green jacket in 2009 - from serious dental problems to tendinitis in his left wrist to minor surgery to repair a tear in his lower digestive system.
Still, the man who learned golf as a caddy in Cordoba grinds on.
"A lot of work and a lot of faith in myself," Cabrera said about his climb back to Masters contention. "I have a lot of confidence in myself, and so I'm going to keep on going."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)