The Masters: Trevor Immelman Holds off Tiger Woods to Win His First Major

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2008

Trevor Immelman held off Tiger Woods and the rest of the field Sunday at Augusta to win his first green jacket.

Immelman shot a final round 75, which at first glance, does not sound like the most impressive final. But, with harsh conditions at Augusta on Sunday afternoon, a 75 constituted a quality round of golf.

25 mile-per-hour winds swirled around Augusta National, transforming it into a far harder course than was seen on the previous three days.

Only four out of forty-six golfers that made the cut managed to break par on Sunday.

Immelman started out his day with a bogey on the first hole.

Shortly thereafter, he was in a tie at the top of the leaderboard with playing partner Brandt Snedeker.

Snedeker soon faltered by making five bogeys on the front-nine on his way to a 77, and he finished tied for third place with Stewart Cink.

Snedeker 's collapse did not by an means represent the end of Immelman's concerns; how could it when a man by the name of Tiger Woods was desperately attempting to climb the leaderboard?

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But as Immelman had done all week, he kept his composure, made smart golf shots and most importantly, he relentlessly protected his lead.

Immelman held at least a share of the lead throughout the entire tournament. The 28-year-old South African was the first player to hold the lead on each day of the Masters since Seve Bellesteros did it in 1980.

Pressure in the world of golf does not get more intense than the back nine at Augusta, particularly if you are in contention.

But today, Immelman and the rest of the field had another form of pressure to factor in; pressure from the elements.

With high-speed winds swirling in all directions, every single shot was a new challenge in it's own right.

Players seemed to be having nothing short of a full blown conference with their caddies before every shot, factoring the difficult and unpredictable winds into their shot selection.

Winning a major is never an easy task. But winning your first major in difficult wind conditions, on an extremely tough and unforgiving golf course with the world's number one player lurking behind you on the leaderboard is a more difficult situation than most.

Woods finished his final round five strokes back as Immelman approached the sixteenth tee.

For a moment it looked as if Tiger's intimidation factor was radiating even from the clubhouse as Immelman pulled his tee shot on the par-3 sixteenth into the water.

Immelman went on to make double bogey on sixteen.

But, as he had done all week, Immelman kept his composure and regained his rhythm.

He went on to par the seventeenth and eighteenth holes to obtain his first Masters victory.

Just about every golf analyst on the face of the planet predicted Woods would win his fifth Masters this week.

ESPN even ran a story about a statistical study done by the University of California, Berkley.

The study analyzed over 10,00 rounds of golf on the PGA Tour and stated that in tournaments Woods plays in, the rest of the field, on average, shoots 1.5 strokes higher.

The study concluded that this increase was due to Woods intimidation factor, thus giving the star an advantage before he even steps onto the golf course.

The 2008 Masters has shown us why the tournament is played and why the green jacket is not just handed to Woods before play begins.

Immelman hit more fairways and greens in regulation than any other player in the field this week, which led him to his first Masters victory on Sunday.

Woods had two average rounds of golf on Thursday and Friday followed by two better, but by no means great, rounds of golf on Saturday and Sunday.

Woods also severely struggled on the greens this week, where he typiclly is one of the best putters on tour.

All in all, Woods had an average week at Augusta.

Even a player of Woods caliber, no matter how intimidating he may be, will be hard pressed to win a major by playing at a level that is anything below his best.

If the 2008 Masters has done nothing else, it has shown the rest of the field that Woods is not invincible.

Though he is unquestionably the best player in the world, Woods is not automatically handed victories. The four rounds that make up a golf tournament are not just played by Woods as a formalitly.

He, like everyone else, must go out and play good golf all week.

If Woods is playing sub-standard golf, as he was this week, there is hope for the rest of the field.

Immelman demonstrated that  by holding off Woods to become the 2008 Masters champion.