Winning the Masters became a game of survival

Winning the Masters became a game of survival

From this day forth, he will be known as "Trevor Immelman, Masters champion."
Al Tielemans/SI

On Sunday evening, as the green jacket was presented to Trevor Immelman in the Butler Cabin, somewhere Gary Player was saying, “I told you so!”

In 2005, Player, the last South African to win the Masters, picked Immelman for the Presidents Cup team. The pick gave Immelman a two-year PGA Tour exemption (he was not an exempt member at the time), and some players said he didn’t deserve it. The “Immelman Rule” was passed shortly thereafter. Selection to the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup team no longer comes with a PGA Tour exemption.

But that’s ancient history now. Gary Player’s choice has been completely vindicated, and his protege’s life will never be the same. From this day forth, he will be known as “Trevor Immelman, Masters champion.”

From my tower behind the 13th green at Augusta on Sunday afternoon, I had the perfect vantage point to see the pivotal moment of the tournament. When Tiger Woods’s putt slid by the hole, denying him a much-needed birdie, that was it. If Tiger had made that putt, the roar through the pines would have reached Immelman on the 12th tee. I can assure you, things would have gotten really interesting around Amen Corner.

For four days, Tiger fought his butt off and never quit. He’s a champion, and that’s what champions do. Except for an eagle chip-in on the 15th hole Thursday and a long birdie putt on the 11th hole Sunday, Tiger’s efforts went unrewarded. And that’s exactly the way the tournament committee at Augusta likes it. If you want great results at the Masters, you’ve got to hit great shots. Good shots are not going to cut it.

Trevor Immelman is a solid player and certainly hit a lot of great shots. He’s a deserving champion, but Tiger is going to look back on this tournament with frustration. He had several chances to make birdies, and his putter let him down.

From the cozy confines of your sofa, there is no way you could have appreciated just how tough Augusta played Sunday. The gusting, swirling wind made it extremely difficult to control shots.

For the second year in a row, the weather denied us a back-nine shootout, something we haven’t seen since Tiger’s win in 2005 over Chris DiMarco. The wind on Sunday forced players to be defensive or risk making big numbers. If the conditions had stayed as soft as they were Saturday, there would have been a lot more roars.

Parting Shots

• Phil Mickelson needs to start simplifying his game and his approach to playing. He’s thinking too much out there, and it gets him into trouble. When I saw that Phil had switched putters before his final round Sunday, that told me exactly where his game was.

• Brandt Snedeker is an emotional player and proved he’s an elite putter, but he needs to learn from his mistakes. He put his second shot to the par-5 13th hole into Rae’s Creek on both Saturday and Sunday.

• Paul Casey, whom I coach, was very disappointed with his 79 on Sunday. When his ball moved on the sixth green as he was getting ready to putt, he was forced to call a penalty on himself. It rattled him. For Paul to win a major, he knows he can’t get caught up in circumstances like that. But as every golfer knows, it’s tough.