David Feherty reflects on Sunday pressure at Augusta and a close call of his own

David Feherty reflects on Sunday pressure at Augusta and a close call of his own

Immelman handled the pressure that wrecked everyone else, including Tiger.
Al Tielemans/SI

A few notes from David Feherty on the new Masters champion, Tiger’s trying Sunday, and sucking face (almost) with Verne Lundquist.

Trevor Immelman played astonishing golf Sunday. If you have the lead at Augusta on Friday or Saturday, the green jacket feels like it’s made of lead. On Sunday? It’s so heavy, you can barely walk. It wears on you. He handled the pressure that wrecked everyone else, including Tiger.

Immelman’s biggest shot was his 20-foot par putt on 11. What a 4! It was gigantic. And he followed that by holing a bowel-liquefying bogey putt on the par-3 12th. If he misses that bogey putt, he could be looking at a triple. With these greens, if the ball lips out, you’re not left with a tap-in; you have three or four feet. You could see Trevor’s hair turning gray with each hole.

We saw the perfect storm of conditions at Augusta on Sunday. The course couldn’t have played harder, with the speed of the greens, the softness of the fairways and the howling wind. It’s too bad the gusts were so great. A calmer day could have produced some back-nine fireworks. But the wind took an already difficult course right to the edge.

Tiger’s defining moment came on 13, when he missed his short birdie putt. The stage was set. He’d birdied 11, and if he birdies 13, he hangs six under on the board, and we might have seen Trevor Immelman become Tremor Immelman. But for all the money he has, Tiger couldn’t buy a putt. You could see the frustration bubbling up. It’s a testament to his greatness that he still finished second. When he plays well, everyone else is finished. When he doesn’t, they have a chance.

You’d think Immelman’s six-shot lead with three holes to play would be safe, and then on 16 … bingo! Double-bogey. There’s no other course where six shots can vanish so quickly. It shows you what Augusta can do to these players. But Trevor’s poor tee shot was not due to nerves. I watched his swing from my position in the CBS tower at 15, and it appeared his alignment was off. He hit it dead square. That swing is something — so efficient and reliable. He’s lucky it hasn’t been kidnapped by the Swiss. But his alignment appeared a bit off on 16.

If you think the tee shot on 16 is frightening, I’ve got something much scarier: Verne Lundquist tried to kiss me! We were in the CBS Masters house. He was reading the newspaper, and I was eating a bowl of cereal. Ever since I broke some ribs in a bicycle accident last month, sneezing has become indescribably painful. It feels like getting shot in the heart. I tried to fight it, but I let loose a big one. A mouthful of All-Bran shot across the room, and I dropped to the floor — the pain was that bad. Verne jumped up and rushed over. He couldn’t tell if I was breathing, and I was in so much pain that I couldn’t talk. I looked up to see Verne coming toward me, bending down, and I realized, “Oh, god! He’s going to give me the kiss of life.” So I did the only thing I could to avoid mouth-to-mouth: I kicked at him like a bronco. Phew! That was close. Verne, I appreciate the thought, but I don’t kiss on the first date.

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