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Masters Final Round Thoughts — Immelman Endures, Tiger, Weir, Ames Struggle

[photopress:immelman1404200.jpg,full,alignleft]Trevor Immelman is a fine golfer. He’s a strong player who is the type that, now recovered from a variety of health issues, should be able to give Tiger Woods a run for his money.

If that’s the case, why did the final round of the Masters seem like such a let down? Was it me, or was the final five hours just dull, with Immelman trying to hold his shaky game together as Woods desperately fought against a troublesome putter. And given the tremendously difficult elements of the course — the 11th, is a perfect example, as golfers fired shots from 225 yards at a green with a similar slope and pace to my driveway — there was little chance anyone could mount a charge at the South African.

Woods had already commented earlier in the week that the Masters had become more like a US Open, meaning par was a great score and birdies would be rare. Former Masters champ Mark O’Meara is of the opinion that even the powers-that-be at Augusta now recognize they’ve pushed it too far and are sapping the tournament of its excitement:

“I’m 51 now and I’ve had my day in the sun, but I’d rather see it to where some of the holes like 7, and a couple of others, where maybe they back off a little bit. Where you can see a guy post a 31 on Sunday, or make a couple of eagles and birdies,” O’Meara said. “I think Mr. Payne is a wonderful gentleman; he sees that, he’s listening, he knows.”

Given the exacting setup, with a little wind tossed in, and it isn’t hard to see why the exacting setup broke so many golfers on Sunday. Let’s be clear — Immelman won a battle of attrition. And a golfer like Brant Snedecker, who I think has demonstrated he could be the next American star, came away from the day feeling emotionally overwhelmed, actually crying after his round:

“I have no clue why I’m so emotional,” said Snedeker, 27, the 2007 rookie of the year. “I was laughing outside and crying in here.”

Similar comments were heard from Steve Flesch:

“It was brutal out there,” Flesch said. “I had a great week, and this is the best finish I’ve had in a major. But, obviously, I’m disappointed because I played good for three rounds and then only play half a round (Sunday).”

And Flesch was one of the few who actually played well on Sunday — at least for two-thirds of his round.

My take is that the green jackets at Augusta have pushed the tournament to the point where it isn’t fun to watch. It is like watching someone pull the wings off a fly — maybe there’s some appeal, but it is more a case of watching who doesn’t lose than who wins. There are really no places — with the exception of 13, perhaps — where someone can make a charge on the back nine now. Most of the players are just hoping to make par — and to have no more than one double bogey on their cards.

As the Pheonix Star points out, there were days — and they weren’t that long ago — that Sunday at Augusta could be exciting. I know — the day they are describing, I followed Ernie Els and KJ Choi for 18 holes before catching Mickelson play the last one. It was as remarkable a sporting event as I’ve ever attended:

But remember back in the the good ol’ days, like 2004?

There were 30 eagles and three holes-in-one in ’04, including aces in back-to-back groups on No. 16 on Sunday. Phil Mickelson made the winning putt on 18, becoming just the fourth player to do so, and everyone felt all warm and fuzzy inside. And it’s not like the pros turned the Masters into another Buick Open that week either.

As for Immelman, I’ll tell you I’m glad I had the tournament on my PVR and didn’t start to watch until an hour after it had commenced. He’s a great player, but he’s actually a relatively slow golfer — with his setup for each shot taking at least a minute (I know because I could hit the fast-forward button on my Bell PVR twice, which is exactly one minute, for each of his pre-shot routines). And while I thought Immelman was thoughtful in his remarks after his round, I must admit to getting tired of all the CBS-inspired Gary Player bullshit that surrounds him. I mean, we never had to endure this sap with Ernie Els, now did we?

As for Tiger Woods, there goes the talk of a Grand Slam for another year. He never put it in gear, and saw putt after putt role by the edge of the hole. I had though a 3-under score on Sunday would have placed a lot of heat on Immelman — and it turns out that was exactly the case.

For Woods’ part, he says his putting was never where it should have been:

“We figured if we shot something in the 60s, we’re going to be right there with a chance to win and put a lot of pressure on Trevor up there,” Woods said. “It turns out that would have been the case, but I didn’t do my part.”

Immelman shot 75 during the final round without any real challengers. Wonder what happens to him if he could have felt Woods breathing down his neck?

  • The Canadians had a tough weekend, both slipping well down the leaderboard. Stephen Ames may have set the world on fire during the first two rounds, but his weekend was a disaster, leaving him in 25th spot: “This is the toughest conditions I’ve ever played Augusta National on, and the scores are reflecting it,” Ames, from Calgary, said. “I don’t mind the dryness but I think they double-cut the greens and rolled them. That’s tough to putt.”
  • Weir had similar thoughts after his 17th place finish: “It was nearly impossible to get it close to the hole,” he said. “It happened a lot out there today when you see the ball in the air and you’re thinking three and you end up with four or five. At 16, I hit what I thought was a perfect shot, but it stayed on the side of the hill and didn’t roll out to the hole. It’s not a game of yards out here, it’s a game of inches. If it’s six inches left, it’s tap-in for birdie. It’s a roll of the dice on some shots.”
  • Paul Azinger’s comment that Nick Faldo is a “prick,” garnered a lot of attention just prior to the Masters and remarks from the golfer that his quote was taken out of context (hard to figure how the word “prick” could be used positively). Anyway, judge for yourself — the UK paper that did the interview with the Ryder Cup captain has posted audio online.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  • It is always easy to comment on missed putts and forget about the ones that were made (like Tiger’s bomb on 11) but Tiger had the tournament in his hands with missed short putts on 13, 14 (to prevent the 3 putt), and 16 and a miscue of an up and down on 15 along with the lip out early in the round (3rd hole? cannot remember). Tiger makes these putts when he is the leader on Sunday in a major but cannot seem to convert when he is trailing (unlike Jack with his Sunday charges).

    Of course, with Tiger roars being heard, it would have been interesting to see the impact this would have had on Immelman…would it have focused him more on his tee shot on 16th and thus avoided the water?…or increased his nervousness on the final three holes. Who knows but it would have been exciting entertainment unlike the snoozefest we witnessed yesterday.

  • Shaky Game??????

    You must have been watching a different masters with a different Trevor Immelman on a different Sunday than the rest of us.
    One bad shot.
    That’s it.
    On Sunday leading the masters.
    That ain’t shaky, that’s what we call rock solid.

    There is a quote from Bobby Jones over at Shackelford today saying a good round at the masters would be anything in the 60’s. That is exactly how the course played this week.
    Also, someone posted the history of the winners and their score in the comments – very interesting…….things haven’t changed all that much.

  • I think a final round 75 in a major, which is what Immelman shot speaks volumes of the difficulty of the course and the fact that he didn’t have his A or B game(borderline shaky). I guess if anyone could have really gotten into contention on the back nine on Sunday, we would have found out how control of his game he really was.

  • The average score for the last round of the masters was 2.667 over par. Immelman shot 3 over, or about the same as the average for the field. That is rock solid golf for going into the last round with a substantial lead. He did his hard work earlier in the week, so on Sunday he could put the ball where he needed to without taking undo risks. He was in complete control of his game – minus one bad shot on 16. When you have the lead in a major on the final day, you don’t go out and try and shoot a low round, you play to the spots that you know you can make par from – with maybe a bonus birdie here and there. That still takes your A game. Tiger admitted on Saturday night the field would need Trevor to come back substantially, instead he played to about par for the field – they had no chance. He dominated them completely. A very strong performance. Boring – maybe – because everyone likes to see a car crash, but all the same he dominated the rest of the field.

  • I saw a little from column A, a little from column B. He was definitely shaky at times with his irons — approaches to 11, 16 and 17 come to mind — but not with the driver, the short game or the decision-making process. He layed up when appropriate, made all the six-footers that Snedeker, Woods and Flesch kept missing, and consequently gave up very little ground on a day when it was hard to go low.

  • Amen Corner,

    Well said – I think you summed up Sunday well – he did everything right except one swing (that didn’t matter) and won easily.

    The Azinger audio is very interesting – the last time the Americans kicked the European’s butt was the “War at the Shore.” I winder if Azinger is looking for a similar nastiness to the proceedings to try a different tact.

    As for the prick comment – it takes one to know one I guess – Azinger has his own share of detractors too.

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