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Posted March 24, 2012 07:03 pm
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2008: Trevor Immelman youngest Masters winner since Tiger

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    2008: Trevor Immelman youngest Masters winner since Tiger
  • Article Photos
    2008: Trevor Immelman youngest Masters winner since Tiger
  • Article Photos
    2008: Trevor Immelman youngest Masters winner since Tiger
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    Front Page of The Augusta Chronicle after the 2008 Masters Tournament

South Africa's Trevor Immelman will make a better Masters Tournament champion than oddsmaker.

Standing in the locker room on the eve of the 72nd Masters, Immelman said he was "the worst person to ask" for a prediction of the winning score.

As it turned out, he was the best one.

After closing with 3-over-par 75 in Sunday's final round, Immelman beat Tiger Woods (72 on Sunday) by three shots in a final round Immelman controlled all the way.

Immelman finished at 8-under 280, nine shots lower than last year's winning total.

The winning score could have been even lower if not for final-round weather conditions that led to an average score of 74.666, the highest of the week.

"It was so tough, and I was trying to be tough," Immelman said. "There was disaster around every corner."

Immelman earned $1,350,000, winning in his sixth Masters start. As with last year's winner, Zach Johnson, it is his second PGA Tour victory.

On the 30th anniversary of the last South African victory (by Gary Player, who often wears black shirts, as Immelman did Sunday), he ended his country's trend of near-misses in this tournament.

Since 2000, there have been six South African runners-up.

Immelman was the man to beat from Day 1. He became the first champion in 24 years to win after being the first-round co-leader.

Immelman opened with a pair of 68s, followed by 69.

He could have been the first player in Masters history to shoot four rounds in the 60s, but he doesn't care. He has a green jacket at age 28, making him the youngest Masters champion since Woods won his second Masters in 2001 at age 25.

"I've always dreamed about winning majors, and deep down, I always thought I was good enough," Immelman said. "But at times you obviously doubt yourself, because you know, you miss a few cuts and you screw up a few times and you're just like, man, maybe I'm not as good, or not good enough."

He was this week, even with a double bogey on his 70th hole.

"It was pretty phenomenal when you think about those kinds of conditions out there; until No. 16, it was one of the best rounds of the day," said Brandt Snedeker, who shot 77 and finished tied for third place.

The victory came four months after Immelman underwent surgery to remove a noncancerous tumor on his diaphragm.

"This has probably been the ultimate roller coaster ride, and I hate roller coasters," Immelman said.

"And here I am, after missing the cut last week (in the Houston Open), the Masters champion. That's the craziest thing I've ever heard of."

Snedeker was Immelman's playing partner over the final two rounds, so he got a front-row seat of what the champion can do.

"I was very impressed," Snedeker said. "I've played with very few golfers who can manage their emotions, manage their swing and manage the golf course that well."

Immelman followed Johnson's lead in 2007 with accurate driving. The South African led the field in driving accuracy (87 percent), which helped him break Woods' record for under-par play by a champion on the par-4s. Immelman was 10-under, two shots better than Woods when he won in 2001.

"He's a fantastic player," Johnson said.

In addition to being first in driving accuracy, Immelman tied for second in greens in regulation, tied for fourth in putts per round and was 17th in driving distance.

Immelman's 75 tied the record for the highest final-round score by a winner.

He had plenty of company in the over-par final-round club. Of the 12 players closest to him after 54 holes, none of them broke par on the blustery day where winds gusted to 35 mph.

Of those 12, Woods, Padraig Harrington, Stewart Cink and Phil Mickelson had the best rounds, with 72s.

The only subpar rounds in the field were 68 by Miguel Angel Jimenez (tied for eighth place), 69 by Heath Slocum (tied for 33rd), and 71s by Nick Watney (tied for 11th) and Stuart Appleby (tied for 14th).

"It was so tough out there. It was just a very, very difficult test," said Johnson, who shot 77 and tied for 20th.

Johnson compared the conditions to the third round of the 2007 Masters because of the gusts. The scoring average that day was 77.352.

The gusting winds were anticipated. What wasn't expected was an even-par round from four-time champion Woods, who trailed by six at the start of play.

Woods, 32, was seeking his 14th major victory.

"I don't think it's ever easy to win a major in any era. But you know, as you say, I'm playing in Tiger Woods' era," Immelman said. "You know, the guy boggles my mind."

After winning his first three PGA Tour starts this season, Woods has now lost two in row. And his dream of winning the Grand Slam, which he said was "easily within reach" earlier this year, is gone.

"I learned my lesson there with the press," Woods said. "I'm not going to say anything (like that again)."

Woods has lost his past two tournaments in large part because of his putter. This week, he had 28 putts Thursday, 31 on Friday and Saturday and 30 on Sunday.

That was 120 putts for the tournament, which ranked in a tie for 29th in the field. Immelman had 112 putts.

After he rolled in a birdie putt on No. 18, Woods waved one of his hands in disgust, showing his disappointment with his putting.

His main problem was dragging the blade on his shorter putts, he said.

"I just didn't quite have it this week," Woods said. "I didn't make the putts I needed to make this entire week. I had the speed, just didn't get the line right. You have good weeks and have bad weeks. Certainly, this was not one of my best."

Immelman started the final round with a two-shot lead over Snedeker. They both bogeyed the first hole, then Snedeker made eagle on No. 2 to take a share of the lead.

After Snedeker bogeyed No. 3, Immelman had the lead for good. He extended it to four shots after seven holes and five after 13.

The key moment came on the 11th hole, which Immelman entered leading by two shots over Steve Flesch, who was even par for the day at the time.

After Flesch found the water on No. 12 en route to double bogey, Immelman fanned his second shot into No. 11, missing the green by 20 yards on the par-4. His chip ended up on the fringe, and then he rolled that in from 15 feet for par.

"I was real happy to see that one go in, because the way it was playing, pars, on all those back nine holes were just such a good score; so I was just so happy with that," Immelman said.

That gave him a four-shot lead, which grew to five after Snedeker bogeyed No. 13 after finding the water.

It was still at five shots going to the par-3 16th. Immelman found the water for the first time this week and made double bogey.

That cut his lead to three shots over Woods, who had finished his round. That's how it ended after Immelman parred No. 17 (after hitting it in the greenside bunker) and parred No. 18.

2008 Masters

 PlayerFR1R2R3R4 Earn.
1T. Immelman-868686975 $1.350M
2Tiger Woods-572716872 $810,000
3Stewart Cink-472697172 $435,000
3B. Snedeker-469687077 $435,000
5Steve Flesch-272676978 $273,750
5P. Harrington-274716972 $273,750
5Phil Mickelson-271687572 $273,750
8M. Jimenez-177707268 $217,500
8Robert Karlsson-170737173 $217,500
8Andres Romero-172727073 $217,500