AUGUSTA, Ga. It's not impossible for a recent Masters champion to stay under the radar when he returns to Augusta National. See Trevor Immelman, your 2008 Masters winner, for details. The quiet man from South Africa has gone nearly unnoticed through the first 36 holes, even though he was at two under par after rounds of 69 and 73.
"Well, there was no point in mentioning me," Immelman said after the second round. "I hardly played golf last year, and I've made only a couple of cuts this year. I'm just pleased to be here playing this week."
Immelman's appearance at Augusta ended a streak of three straight missed major championships. A left wrist problem pretty much wiped out his 2009. He just couldn't play, and last October he had surgery. In fact, the wrist first began bothering him in September 2008.
"I was really struggling with it at this time last year," Immelman admitted. "By summer, I could hardly hold on to the club."
He tried playing on with cortisone injections but without much success. He eventually needed surgery to repair torn cartilage. Andrew Weiland performed the surgery, the same doctor who did similar work on the wrists of Tour players Jim Furyk and Luke Donald. Immelman's wrist was in a cast for three weeks, and he wasn't able to start hitting balls until the first week of February.
"By no means am I back to where I was, but this week is a step in the right direction," said Immelman. "It's been a long, hard grind to rehab my wrist and get back here. I don't have any pain, but my wrist is less flexible than it was. I'll keep working on that. I know this course very well, and I know where to put the ball. It's just a question of whether my mind will allow my body to put the ball in those places."
Immelman said the course played considerably more difficult in Friday's northwesterly winds. "I left myself some work on the greens," he said, "so I had a couple of three-putts."
He three-putted the 1st and 8th holes for bogeys, got one back with a birdie at the 13th and made some nice saves coming in. Asked if he'd ruled out winning this week, he smiled and answered, "Hell, no. The course wasn't playing that easy [Thursday]. I was seriously impressed by those low scores, but I don't think there are any 66s out there today. Every shot here is a potential disaster. It's actually easier to play this course one shot at a time because every shot is so difficult. It's been a long, hard slog for me. I'll just try to keep it going."