GOLF - AUGUSTA MASTERS

Immelman in Augusta's legend

5 min

South African Trevor Immelman won the privilege to wear the green coat after winning the Augusta Masters with a three-stroke lead in front of American Tiger Woods depriving him of both a Grand Slam and a fifth victory in Georgia.

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South African Trevor Immelman won the 72nd Masters on Sunday to capture the first major title of his career and deny Tiger Woods a chance at a 2008 Grand Slam.

Immelman, 28, became just the second South African to win the coveted Green Jacket, after three-time champion and boyhood hero Gary Player.

Showing poise as the pressure built on the wind-whipped Augusta National course, Immelman became the first wire-to-wire winner since Raymond Floyd in 1976.

His three-over 75 gave him an eight-under total of 280 and a three-shot victory over world No.1 Woods, the overwhelming pre-tournament favorite who carded an even-par 72 for 283.

"I still can't believe I'm sitting in this position," Immelman said. "I had to go out there and just be tough. I'm proud of myself for doing that."

Brandt Snedeker, who started the day two shots behind Immelman and briefly seized a share of the lead with an eagle at the second hole, emerged from his rollercoaster of a round with a 77 for 284, tied for third with fellow American Stewart Cink who shot 72.

Immelman survived a hiccup at the par-three 16th, where he found the water and took a double-bogey that sliced his lead from five strokes to three.

"The wind was really swirling," Immelman said. "I had to back off my shot. To be fair, I made a poor swing and I pulled it. I was praying that I got enough of it to make it to the trap, but I wasn't lucky enough there."

Even so, Woods was already conceding defeat in the clubhouse when Immelman fired his second shot at 17 into a greenside bunker.

He got up and down, but had one last test at 18, where his ball looked to be safely in the fairway but was in fact nestled in a divot.

"I hit the drive of the week into the biggest divot you've ever seen," Immelman said. "I was trying to figure out how I was going to four-putt to win the tournament. Luckily I only needed two."

Snedeker whose round included nine bogeys and two birdies as well as his eagle, called Immelman's performance "Phenomenal."

"I don't think I've ever seen anybody drive the ball as well as that anywhere. When he got in trouble, he got right out of it. He made a little hiccup on 16, but you're going to do that when you're trying to win your first major.

"I hiccupped my whole way around the golf course."

After a one-over front nine, Immelman saved par at the par-four 11th, first hole in the treacherous trio of Amen Corner, with a 15-foot putt from the fringe.

He dropped a shot at the par-three 12th, where he fired his tee shot into the azalea bed behind the green. But he pulled that one back with a superb birdie at the par-five 13th, where he laid up, landed his approach shot a couple of feet from the hole, and made the putt for a five-stroke lead.

Snedeker, meanwhile, bogeyed 13, putting it in the creek for the second straight day.

"Golly if someone could tell me how to play that second shot I'd love to know," he said.

Immelman, who had played all three of the first rounds under 70, was showing signs of stress on his outward run.

The South African seemed rattled after missing a three-footer for birdie at the seventh and made a three-putt bogey at the par-five eighth.

He righted the ship by scrambling for a par after a poor drive at the ninth.

Meanwhile Woods, playing two groups in front of the leaders, bogeyed the 10th to fall six adrift - exactly where he started the day.

The world No.1 drained a monster birdie putt at the 11th, raising a roar and the prospect of a back-nine charge. But another missed chance at 13 and a bogey at 14 made his closing birdie good only for sole possession of second place.

"I figured if I played the last seven holes probably three-under-par, I might be in it," Woods said. "But I just didn't make any putts all week.

"I hit the ball well enough to contend. I hit the ball well enough to put some pressure on Trevor. I just didn't make any putts."

While Woods owns 13 major titles, all of those have come when held at least a share of the lead heading into the final round.

The 32-year-old American had arrived at Augusta supremely confident, reiterating his belief that an unprecedented sweep of all four major championships - the Masters, US and British Opens and PGA Championship - was possible for him this year.

Immelman admitted that winning a major with Woods in the field felt especially sweet.

"To win a major while he's playing, and he's told us that he's playing at his peak, it's a hell of an achievement," Immelman said.

It was also an achievement given Immelman's recent health concerns, including invasive surgery to remove a non-cancerous tumor from his diaphragm in December.

"Here I am after missing the cut last week, Masters Champion," he said. "It's the craziest thing I ever heard of."

American lefthander Steve Flesch, 40, started the day in third place but his steady play disintigrated with a double bogey and four bogeys in a row coming in.

He finished with a 78 for 286, tied for fifth with Ireland's British Open champion Padraig Harrington and two-time Masters Champion Phil Mickelson, who both shot 72.

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