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Did Immelman win Masters or did Tiger lose it?

It's laughable to think that Tiger Woods needs to be defended but after hearing so much about how Woods blew an opportunity to win the Masters considering this year's champion, Trevor Immelman, shot a 3-over 75 during the windy final round, I wanted to toss out these reminders.

* For starters, Woods did finish second in the Masters (for the second straight year) after having what was, for him, a miserable putting day and tournament.

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* Secondly, despite not having his putting stroke down, Woods did not fail to make or break par in all four rounds, shooting 72-71-69-72.  Only one other player, Stewart Cink, who tied for third, managed the same.  So even when Woods is not playing his best, there is a uncanny consistency that allows him to stalk the lead.

Yesterday, he missed five putts that were well within his range.  Had he made two or three, who knows whether Immelman's grip would have tightened a little.

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As it turns out, the South African is an entirely deserving Masters champion.  The weekend broadcast reminded fans over and over about how Immelman (left) had battled through health problems since the last Masters, with a parasite and then a cancer scare. For three days he played terrific golf with rounds of 68-68-69 that included a key back nine on the third day when he birded three of the final six holes just as Tiger had made his own move.  Yesterday, he outlasted mere mortal challengers who were swept away by 35 mph gusts and kept the intrepid Woods at driver's length giving up two strokes on No. 16 when the match was all but over.

There's been some sentiment that this was a Masters that Tiger Woods lost rather than Trevor Immelman won and when you look at individual instances when Woods could have made a rush, you might come to that conclusion.  But if you consider the body of work over four days, that Woods was constantly pressing, even if not charging, the top of the leader board, it would sell both players short to minimize what they accomplished at Augusta.

Photo credit: Chris O'Meara/AP

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