Four months ago, Trevor Immelman lay on a hospital bed, waiting for a tumor to be removed from his back. On Sunday, he won his first Major tournament, popping the top players to the Green Jacket. And more importantly, when he putted out for par on the final hole of the 2008 Masters on Sunday, all the hype surrounding Tiger Woods’ campaign to win a calendar Grand Slam (winning all the four majors in the same year) came to an abrupt end. For Tiger, it means having to wait another year to accomplish a feat no one ever has before. For the twenty eight year old South African, it was a case of potential finally being realized.
Tiger Woods arrived at Augusta as strong favorite to win his fifth Masters title, having won nine of his previous eleven tournaments, with the bookies giving him even odds for success. Everyone, all the players, the writers and the fans spoke of how he had taken his game to a whole new level. As for the Grand Slam, Tiger himself had stated that conquering all the Majors was “easily within reason” only three months ago. But the World No.1 was in for a rude awakening at the demanding Augusta National course. After two rounds he stood seven behind Immelman, having a score of only 1 under par. From there, it was always going to be an uphill task.
Immelman, on the other hand, was in the form of his life. Two 68s on Thursday and Friday sent him into the weekend with a one shot lead. On Saturday, he strengthened his lead with a solid three under round. Meanwhile, Tiger broke 70 for the first time, a four under 68 that shot him up to fifth spot, still six shots behind. But, like on the first two days, he never got going during the final round.
The strong winds on Sunday made Augusta so difficult for scoring that only four players shot sub-par rounds, all of whom had started earlier in the morning far off the lead. The average score was as high as 75.07. Immelman held himself together as everyone around him fell of the pace. Brandt Snedeker, who started in second place, ended third due to a final round five over par. Steve Flesch’s and Paul Casey’s hard work over the first three days was undone with scores of 78 and 79 respectively.
In the end, it was a case of whether Immelman would collapse rather than if anyone would make a charge at him. A six shot lead with three holes to play meant that even a double bogey on the 16th hole after his tee shot found the creek in front of the green, and a scraped par on 17th couldn’t stop him from taking the title. Woods ended second after having missed key putts on the final nine holes.
From the Asian perspective, it wasn’t a tournament to remember. Only KJ Choi and Jeev Milkha Singh made the cut, finishing 41st and Tied for 25th respectively. Last season’s Asian Order of Merit Winner Liang Weng Chong missed the cut while Thai golfer Prayad Marksaeng withdrew in the middle of his second round due to a back injury.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rich_w/2410545213/]