Sunday, April 13, 2008

No Grand Slam This Year, At Least From Tiger

Trevor Immelman won the Masters today with a round of 75. He finished at -8 and was three clear of Tiger Woods at -5 (72). Immelman could have had a better round and a larger margin of victory, but he pulled his tee shot to the 16th hole into the pond to make double bogey. He could have fired 73. Still, in the final analysis, the grand total score does not matter so much as how he got there in the first place.

Immelman won by hitting fairways and greens - en masse. He hit over 70% of the fairways at Augusta National. Although those fairways are fairly generous by major championship standards, it is that solid nature off of the tee that sets up the approaches, angles, and therefore confidence that lead to all of the things one has to do to win at Augusta. 70% of fairways led to 85% of greens in regulation. He averaged 1.5 putts per hole - indicative of a player that was (a) under par and (b) clutch when pars had to be made.

His demeanor for most of the tournament was fantastic. The guy looked as cool as Retief Goosen in his two US Open victories, except he was not afraid to smile every once in a while. He reveled in the spirit of his childhood hero, Gary Player, with grit and determination. The patience he exhibited all over the course on Sunday follows in the tradition of all of the South African golf greats. The bottom line is that Trevor Immelman deserved to win.

Tiger Woods played like a guy who did not deserve to win. Care to rattle down the list of missed putts and opportunities that could have given him the victory? The par putt at #4. The birdie opportunity at #8 that he could not manufacture after a good drive. A lousy approach shot at #10. A pull on #13 for birdie. A 3 putt bogey on #14 - on the easiest hole imaginable given the circumstances. A blotched putt on 15 and 16. That is seven shots that Woods gave away. Had he cashed in on half of those, Woods would have found himself in a playoff. The door was open and Woods could not walk through.

So it remains that Woods has won 13 major championships. And it becomes that another South African has a green jacket of his own.

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