Immelman tops Woods to claim first Green Jacket on difficult day at Augusta National

The Masters 2008 ReviewTiger Woods needed only to close with a final round of 69 to force a playoff and keep his chances of completing golf's Grand Slam alive.

In the end, Woods couldn't catch Trevor Immelman and couldn't solve the greens at Augusta National.

Immelman led the tournament wire-to-wire after posting three rounds in the 60's over the first three days of competition and then hung on with a gritty 75 in the final round to claim his first green jacket and his first major championship.

Immelman finished the tournament at 8-under-par while Woods came in a distant second, three shots off the pace at 5-under.

The 28-year-old South African became the first player to hold at least a share of the lead after every round since Raymond Floyd did so in 1976 and became only the second of his countrymen to win the Masters, joining Gary Player who competed in his 51st consecutive Masters this year.

"Obviously that's some pretty incredible company to be keeping there," said Immelman. "Those are the guys that I grew up watching win this championship back home in South Africa. I would be sitting up at midnight watching these guys win and just dream about getting here some time. And I can't believe that I've won the same tournament that they've won."

There were probably a lot of players sitting up at Midnight as Sunday gave way to Monday thinking about what could have been after a brutal, windswept final round at Augusta National.

The players who started the day within striking distance of the lead simply wilted. Whether it was a case of the gravity of the final round of the Masters being too much to handle, the difficult conditions or a combination of both, it was a Sunday to forget.

Brandt Snedeker carded a final round 77 to finish tied for third, four shots off the pace. He found Rae's Creek for the second straight day on the par-5 13th and managed only four birdies on the day compared to nine bogeys.

The crowd at Augusta National

An emotional Snedeker, who was playing in only his second Masters and first as a professional, spoke about the difficult playing conditions during the final round.

"Had to be the swirling wind," he said. "You just never really felt comfortable no matter how good you're playing or how well you thought you were striking the golf ball. The wind would come up or come down and affect your golf ball so dramatically and it was the same on the greens. It was just a day you never really felt comfortable."

Remarkably, Snedeker's score was the second best of the players who were in the top 4 heading into Sunday's Final round.

Paul Casey shot a 79 during the final round to finish at even par for the tournament. He was 7-under, four shots back of Immelman when play concluded Saturday.

Steve Flesch didn't fare much better, shooting a final round 78 and also dropping out of contention after playing virtually mistake-free golf for the better part of three days.

Overall, none of the top 22 players on the leaderboard after 54 holes managed to break par on Sunday. Only four players of the 45 in the field managed to finish under par for the final round. Of the players that finished in the top 10, only Miguel Angel Jiminez broke par, carding a 4-under-par 68.

Woods overtook them all expect Immelman, following up a 68 on Saturday with an even par Sunday. But Woods certainly didn't take advantage of the opportunities he had before him, missing a number of makeable birdie putts throughout the day.

Perhaps the loudest roar on Sunday came when Woods drained a 70-foot birdie putt on No. 11. That would be the only significant putt Woods would make all day until he knocked in a birdie on No. 18 and reacted in disgust that a putt finally dropped for him. Those were his only two birdies of the day.

He missed a key opportunity on 13 when he spun a wedge within a few feet and missed a short birdie putt. He then three-putted 14, and in all likelihood ended any serious chances at a come-from-behind victory.

Woods once again was unable to rally on Sunday at a major championship. The 13-time major winner has never won when trailing after 54 holes going into a final round. He has now finished as the runner-up in back-to-back Masters, both times to players whose names aren't exactly familiar in every American household. This was his fifth second place finish at a major championship in his illustrious career.

Facing a six-shot deficit heading into Sunday's final round, Woods knew he would need to post a good number to make up ground but that never materialized.Amen Corner

"Well, with these conditions it's really no different," Woods said of playing from behind. "We're all playing under difficult conditions, and we figured if we shot something in the 60s we're going to be right there with a chance to win and try to put a lot of pressure on Trevor up there. It turns out that would have been the case. But I didn't do my part."

Immelman was rock solid for the most part, making putts and dialing in key shots when he needed them most. His victory wasn't sealed until he tapped in a short putt on 18 but for the most part he was never seriously threatened on the back nine.

Immelman was equally pleased with his ability to hold on down the stretch as he was with his first three rounds at Augusta this week.

"It's a bit of both," he said. "The three rounds in the 60s was pretty impressive and it got me in a great position going into today. But those rounds are no good unless you get it done.

"And even though I shot what I shot today, it was just so difficult out there," he said.  "I'm real proud of myself for hanging in there through the adversity today and just trying to keep my chin up and stay focused and just try and hit shot for shot."

Just as Zach Johnson did a year ago, Immelman did just enough to hold off Tiger Woods and claim victory on Sunday at Augusta National. And similar to last year, the final round was more about hanging on than making a move.

Tiger's move never materialized, giving way to Trevor's moment.

 

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