Masters 2011: Charl Schwartzel and the Top 10 Storylines from Sunday
Another thrilling Masters has come to an end.
We all knew that Sunday could provide fireworks, and it did just that. We also expected it to be a first time major champion.
However, few expected South African Charl Schwartzel to emerge from a logjam to take home a coveted green jacket.
Still, we all know that Schwartzel winning is just one of many major headlines to come out of Sunday's action. In fact, some of the other stories may have greater ramifications down the read.
Therefore, let us take a look back and, in the process, try to look forward as we assess the major results of the 75th Masters.
A Win for Japan
Given all the tragedy in Japan lately, it is nice for the country to have something to cheer about.
Fortunately for them, Hideki Matsuyama did not disappoint.
The 19-year-old was the first ever Japanese amateur to play in the Masters. As a result, he became the first Japanese man to win low amateur in the biggest tournament in golf.
Matsuyama finished his debut with a great finish, a birdie on 18.
At one under, the young man beat players like Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson and Nick Watney.
Not bad in a week's worth.
Luke Donald Makes Amends
Luke Donald needed to make a miracle happen.
On 18, Donald was 9 under and needed a birdie to have any chance at a playoff since Tiger Woods, and Geoff Ogilvy had already hit that number.
Donald had a really tough shot and had to stoop down just to reach the ball. He replied with a shot that hit the pin and could have easily gone in.
Instead, the ball hit the pin with such force it trickled all the way off the green.
Fate appeared to not be on Donald's side.
However, the young Brit was not to be deterred.
Donald played a miraculous chip that rolled right into the whole for a well-deserved birdie.
While the shot ended up not meaning the difference between playing in a playoff or not, Donald was clearly pumped to get the score he felt he had earned on the previous shot.
In the end, though, Donald's round was defined by the 12th where he shot a double bogey five on the par three.
What could have been?
Phil Mickelson Just Never Gets It Going
Everyone picked Phil Mickelson after his win last week in Houston.
Lefty was riding the momentum and the defending Masters champion looked to be playing confidently.
Unfortunately, his poor driving and putting never allowed him to be a formidable force in this competition.
Mickelson never got lower than four under for the tournament. On Sunday, he had two double bogeys en route to a 74 and a forgettable Masters for the owner of three green jackets.
Still, despite the mediocre performance, Mickelson has some time to regroup before another run at the U.S. Open. The field may be better than ever, but Mickelson continues to be a confident player.
Now can he continue to win majors?
International Flavor in Golf
Don't look now, but the world is taking over golf.
The final leader board at the 75th Masters looks like a United Nations assembly. Six continents are represented in the top seven alone.
Only six Americans were in the top 19, and this is the first time since 1994 that an American does not currently possess a major trophy.
The international players are dominating the world rankings, the majors and now the headlines.
With the emergence of young international superstars like Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Camilo Villegas, Ryo Ishikawa and Luke Donald, among may others, that tradition may not change any time soon.
Tiger Woods clearly dominated golf for over a decade, but this international competition will make majors much more difficult to come by.
Jason Day's Debut
Golfers making their debut at the Masters are not supposed to be competitive.
Jason Day was following that script when he was three over midway through his first round.
However, Day responded with four straight birdies on the back nine to finish day one with a 72. He followed up that positive momentum with a 64 on Friday, the low round of the 2011 Masters.
Day may have had some wayward shots here and there, but he showed tremendous toughness throughout the four days.
Knowing he had to make a charge late, Day birdied the final two holes, playing right beside the leader at the time Adam Scott.
Playing well is one thing. Playing well when everything is on the line is quite another story.
Day, 23 years old, really impressed in this tournament and has made a case for being one of the future stars to keep an eye on going forward.
With his driver and his mental tenacity, a Masters victory may soon be in the cards for Day.
Charl Schwartzel Makes South Africa Proud
Charl Schwartzel was never the headline at Augusta until it mattered most...the end.
Schwartzel, a South African protege of Ernie Els, really had a sense of historical timing.
25 years ago, Jack Nicklaus made his Sunday charge to win at age 46. The Golden Bear was four under in the final four holes.
Schwartzel took a logjam at the top and blew it wide open with four straight birdies to end his round.
50 years ago, fellow South African Gary Player became the first international player to win the Masters.
Schwartzel earned his Masters victory. Feeling the pressure from everyone, he responded with big putts, chip ins and even an eagle from the fairway.
At just age 26, Schwartzel has the game and confidence now to make sure this first major is not his last.
Aussie Close Calls
Entering Sunday, an Australian golfer had never won the Masters.
Let us not forget, as a subplot to Jack Nicklaus' win 25 years ago, Aussie Greg Norman choked away a chance at a playoff with a bogey on the final hole.
Well this Sunday, Australia had three golfers in the mix with Adam Scott, Jason Day and Geoff Ogilvy all jockeying for the lead.
Unfortunately, despite some spectacular rounds by all three men, it was just not quite enough.
While Day's debut was surprising, the bigger headline was that of Scott.
The 30-year-old has always been highly touted but had never really come through in a major.
His only top 10 finish before Sunday was in a Tiger Woods rout where the Aussie never really had a chance.
Scott was the outright leader on 17 tee and proceeded to make a clutch par putt and a good run at birdie on 18 to finish 12 under in a tie for second.
The putting stroke that had cost the smooth hitting Scott for so long finally came through at a crucial moment.
With only one bogey on Sunday, Scott may have had a big day for his confidence.
We all knew his swing was good enough to win a major. If his short game can follow suit, Scott could finally break through in a major way.
If I had to bet, I would say sooner rather than later.
The Back Nine of Augusta Does Not Disappoint
You know the old saying that the Masters does not start until the back nine on Sunday.
Well, it was true once again this year.
What more could a fan ask for?
Tiger Woods was making a charge for a dramatic come from behind victory.
Bo Van Pelt had two eagles on the back nine to come out of nowhere.
At one point, six players were tied for the lead.
At another point, nine players were within two shots.
We saw birdies, eagles and plenty of drama throughout the back nine.
In fact, the top six players all finished with rounds in the 60s.
That is what fans want to see, exciting and thrilling plays that make you sit back and marvel at the talent of these phenoms. While Schwartzel may have pulled away at the end, it was a great journey for everyone involved.
Rory McIlroy Falls Apart
He was supposed to be the second youngest major champion of all-time.
Instead, the Northern Irishman shot a final round score of 80, and the 21-year-old phenom could only stand back and wonder what could have been in one of the craziest Masters in recent memory.
Entering the day with a four stroke lead, McIlroy appeared to be on the verge of a break through victory. He had led every single day at Augusta and looked to be in complete control of his game.
Yet, an early missed putt on the first led to some nerves. Then the poor putting led to a wayward shot on 10 that caused the wheels to fall off completely.
After his British Open collapse last year, McIlroy has more scars at a younger age than just about anyone in recent memory.
Nevertheless, the budding star handled things with amazing class and maturity. In fact, I can think of at least one major golf star who never would have handled those questions as maturely as McIlroy.
The key to golf is being able to learn from mistakes. McIlroy is too smart and too talented not to recover from this disappointment.
As he said, he led the Masters after 63 holes. People would give anything to be in that position.
If he continues to grow, it will not be long before McIlroy leads more than one major with 72 holes completed.
Tiger Woods Is Closer Than Ever to a Comeback
Despite all the missed putts, the wayward drives and the frustration of losing, Tiger Woods was precariously close to winning his 15th major.
Woods did not wait to make a patented charge, shooting a 31 on the front nine and sending shock waves throughout Augusta National.
It appeared that the world's former No. 1 golfer was just moments from knocking the competition out. Yet, with everything on his side, Woods could not deliver the knockout blow.
A three-putt on 12 from the middle of the green was followed by an inexcusable par on the par five 13th.
Woods probably expected to go at least one or two under during that stretch, instead he went one over.
An even par back nine left Woods wondering what could have been.
Still, despite the close call, Woods knows he is closer than ever to breaking his winless drought.
Granted, a fourth place finish last year did not result in a win for all of 2010. However, the swing looked better than it has in quite some time.
Woods was able to shape shots that only a transcendent legend like he can.
His second shot on eight to a back corner pin that no one could approach was absolutely spectacular.
If Woods can recapture that putting magic he showed glimpses of throughout this week, he will return to the winner's circle.
Until then, at least sports media have something to talk about.