Commentary

Immelman holds on as Woods lets one get away

Updated: April 14, 2008, 12:04 PM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Who said no women are members at Augusta National?

How about Mother Nature? She had the run of the place Sunday afternoon during the final round of the Masters, otherwise known as The Day Tiger Woods Wanted To Shriek.

It was there for Woods. A fifth green jacket. A 14th major. Another chance to pour more cement around his golf legacy.

Instead, he was done in by his own numerous mistakes, an even-par 72 that could have been strokes lower, and by the 35-mph gusts that had Augusta National's flags standing straight out from their flagsticks. Either that or someone kidnapped his putting stroke.

"I just didn't quite have it this week," Woods said.

There's no polite way of saying it: Woods yacked away his chances at a Masters that was absolutely his for the taking. And with it goes any more of his talk about a 2008 Grand Slam.

"I learned my lesson there with the press," he said. "I'm not going to say anything."

So South African Trevor Immelman won. Or maybe more accurately, he didn't lose. Sometimes they're one and the same, especially at this course.

"It's the craziest thing I've ever heard of," said Immelman of a 12-month period that has seen him battle through an intestinal parasite and a cancer scare.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty ImagesTiger Woods was derailed by a balky putter all week long.
Then there are the non-health-related issues: a Tiger scare.

"You know, the guy boggles my mind," Immelman said. "This guy is frightening."

Immelman, 28, led from start to finish, becoming the first player since 1980 to lead or share the lead in every round. If he was worried about Woods, he didn't show it. No need.

Afterward, in Butler Cabin, defending champion Zach Johnson helped Immelman slip his arms through the sleeves of the coveted green jacket. Immelman's new favorite piece of clothing came with some history attached to the lapels.

Thirty years ago, Immelman's boyhood hero, Gary Player, won his third and final Masters title. Player left a voice message for Immelman on Saturday night, telling him, "I know you're going to win." Immelman put the message on speakerphone and played it for his entire family.

"It gave me goose bumps," Immelman said.

A jacket now belongs to Immelman, but you also could issue one to Augusta National and another to Mama Nature. They won this thing as much as Immelman did.

Need proof? There were just two rounds in the 60s and only four rounds under par Sunday. None of those rounds belonged to the top seven players on the leaderboard.

The strong, swirling winds toyed with everybody's mind, including Woods'. It's bad enough you have to deal with this muscle-bound layout of 7,445 yards and its mysterious greens. But to have to deal with the wind above as well is just plain cruel.

"It was a day where you never felt comfortable," said Brandt Snedeker, who was paired with Immelman in the final group.

The combination of Augusta National's foul mood and the foul [windwise] weather caused these guys to do strange things. Phil Mickelson changed putters for the final round. Club selection became an art form. Only Immelman was able to survive the day. Barely.

But nothing was more shocking than Woods' collapse, if you can call a second consecutive second-place Masters finish a collapse. He never made a charge. Or a trot. Or anything. He was just sort of there.

I figured he'd win this thing. Wrote it and felt good about it. Who knew he'd forget how to operate a putter?

[+] EnlargeBrandt Snedeker
Andrew Redington/Getty ImagesBrandt Snedeker made nine bogeys en route to a 77.
The afternoon started with Immelman at 11 under, Snedeker at 9 under, Steve Flesch at 8 under, Paul Casey at 7 under and Woods at 5 under. Woods trailed by six and, strangely enough, was in perfect position to overtake four guys who, with the exception of Immelman, had never sniffed a major title.

Everyone totally cooperated except Immelman. And Woods.

Casey probably should have stayed in bed. He gave away six strokes in five front nine holes and bungee-jumped off the leaderboard. He finished with a 79.

Flesch trailed by only two going into the par-3 12th. Then he splashed his iron shot into Rae's Creek, made double-bogey and was never heard from again. He finished with a 78.

Snedeker tied Immelman on the second hole at 10 under, then gradually faded into the shadows. A 77 for the day, a 4 under for the tournament and a very respectable tie for third place with Stewart Cink.

"I think I just put myself in a psychiatric ward," said Snedeker, who became a teary mess after the round.

So Woods ended in front of everyone. Everyone but the stubborn Immelman, who overcame his handful of Depends moments with some Tiger-like magic.

Augusta National and the weather slapped Immelman around, but it turns out he can take a punch. He did what Woods couldn't do -- made some key putts. And he did what Woods used to do -- put enough distance between himself and the rest of the field that it didn't matter.

Immelman was up by six with four holes to play, which meant he still had some leaderboard elbow room after a double-bogey on the par-3 16th.

"His resolve … was phenomenal," Snedeker said. "He definitely had a chance to buckle today."

Instead, everyone else did. Tiger. Snedeker. Flesch. Casey… I can keep going.

Woods missed short- to medium-length putts -- all makeable -- on Nos. 4, 13, 14, 15 and 16. When he sank a 10-footish birdie putt on No. 18, he dismissed the whole thing with a wave of the hand. All it did was give him sole possession of second place.

"That's the way it is," he said. "Some weeks are like that. You have bad weeks and you have good weeks, and certainly this week was not one of the best."

For him, it wasn't. For Immelman, it was a week he added to his sport-coat wardrobe.

Thank you, Tiger.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com.

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Columnist / College Football reporter