Schwartzel triumphs on a wild Masters Sunday
I pity the poor AP writer who had to bang out a recap of the madness that was this Masters Sunday. At times during the wildest final round in memory, visions of a seven-man playoff were dancing in Jim Nantz’s head, so much so that they crowded out all of Nantzie’s usual clever wordplay once Charl Schwartzel — yes, Charl Schwartzel — went birdie x 4 to win the green jacket.
That’s right — no “Charl in charge!” or “Charl-broiled!” For once, the action spoke for itself. No enhancement necessary.
It was a truly remarkable day, with a deeper cast of stars than “Ocean’s Eleven.” There was Tiger Woods, angrily charging his way up the leaderboard. There was Adam Scott, finally delivering on his potential with clutch shot after clutch shot. There was Jason Day, bulldog-tough, with the trophy wife of all trophy wives waiting for her post-round kiss. There was young superstar Luke Donald, who made a birdie for the ages at 18. There were the crafty veterans — Geoff Ogilvy, K.J. Choi, Angel Cabrera — taking turns trying to outshine the young guns.
And there was Rory McIlroy, who did a Greg Norman on his Sunday coronation and then took it like a man.
But we probably should have known what was up early in the round. After Schwartzel chipped in for birdie at 1 and drained his approach for eagle at 3, it was clearly his day, even if we didn’t know it at the time. Things like that just don’t happen on Masters Sunday unless it’s destiny.
From there, Schwartzel just hung around, biding his time, making no more moves but no big errors, until he reached the par-5 15th and switched into history-making overdrive. For the first time, a player birdied the final four holes on Sunday to win The Masters. Let me say that again. A player without a PGA Tour win or a major top 10 on his resume birdied the last four holes of the most storied golf course on earth under the most crushing pressure imaginable.
The last birdie, a slider at 18 that snuck in the side of the cup, was a fitting end to a Master-ful 67 and gave him a two-shot win. But having even a tenuous lead allowed Schwartzel to enjoy his walk up 18, the greatest moment of any golfer’s career.
“Well, I've seen it so many times sitting at home, guys walking up the 18th,” he said. “And just walking up it was such a special feeling, knowing that — I mean I only had a one-shot lead, so you don’t want to get too excited about it, you still got to win the golf tournament. But it just really felt good.
“That putt I practiced it in the practice round and I said to my caddie, I know it’s three balls outside, I’m going to hit it there and see if I can hit it with dead weight because I don’t want to leave myself too long and it managed to find the bottom of the hole.”
And now, Ernie Els’ protégé has done something that the Big Easy himself has never pulled off.
• The top seven guys on the final leaderboard all shot in the 60s. Simply spectacular golf.
• McIlroy showed class and poise by answering questions after shooting an 80. Hope Tiger was watching. Woods continues to disrespect the post-round interviewer. Dude, answering stupid questions is part of the gig.
• Tiger benefits from the what-if post-round analysis more than any other player, and I normally refuse to play that game. Everybody leaves strokes on the course. But Woods does need to shore up his short putting, which used to be automatic. That eagle miss on 15 would have been unthinkable five years ago.
• I had this thought when it looked like Adam Scott might win — this Aussie triumph would have been made possible by McIlroy pulling a Greg Norman. Irony alert.