U.S. Masters finale a classic

2011-04-12 00:00

BLERRIE sport, hey.

Few other matters would compel grown men to stay up into the early hours of a working Monday, half dreaming and half dreading the pending wake-up call, whilst being glued to the startling drama unfolding on the little screen.

Charl Schwartzel’s stunning, nerveless display on the home stretch will go down as one of the finest bits of “sealing the deal” ever seen in the game.

He almost came out of nowhere, but those who have seen him strut his stuff on the Sunshine Tour and then on the European stage will confirm that his swing was made for the big time.

Showing balls infinitely bigger than the one he manouvred so expertly around the treacherous Augusta layout, the 26-year-old confirmed his arrival at the big time.

Big time.

He was almost the forgotten man, as a host of former winners, future stars and even a resurgent superstar laid siege on the 75th Masters crown.

What made Sunday night’s finish at Augusta so riveting was that it was anyone’s championship until Schwartzel’s truly stunning finish.

From the overnight leader, Rory McIlroy, to Tiger Woods, who prompted an almighty roar when he scorched the front nine in 31 strokes, right through to a pair of Aussies in Adam Scott and Jason Day, who threatened to do in the majors what their cricketers are famed for in major tournaments.

As mundane as golf may seem to the untrained, impatient eye, those who stayed up to the glorious, magical finish will tell you that it was the best movie they have seen all year.

This scribe rolled his eyes indignantly when a senseless soul confirmed on a social network that he was watching some rom-com called Valentines Day, despite the mounting drama playing out at Augusta.

It’s sad to see these chick-flick chaps come out.

Anyway, the Masters movie had everything, including the tragic fall of a young gun, as McIlroy shot a tragic, final round 80 and eventually bowed to the infamous pressure that comes on the home stretch of the prettiest, yet most brutal piece of real estate in Augusta, Georgia.

Bigger names have frozen when destiny came knocking at their doors.

McIlroy later said that he was fine.

“I will get over it. I will have plenty more chances.”

That’s the gloss over, but inside the wee Ulsterman must be absolutely shattered.

Golf, at the highest end, is a battle of nerve more than anything. The reason that there were so many contenders in that final round is because there really is that much talent in the game.

Even Woods has fallen back into the pack. He is still a contender, make no bones about that. His rippling, curling second shot from 250 metres into the eighth hole to set up his eagle was the shot of a champion, and he must be cursing those missed opportunities on the back nine.

All these guys hit the ball a mile, and they all have pretty handy short games. The deal-breaker is “on the dance-floor”. Woods hit the ball better and better as the week progressed, but his putting was not as razor-sharp as it simply has to be at Augusta.

The eventual top three drop pressure putts for fun in that frenetic, final hour.

Scott’s broom putter was cleaning up, while Day showed incredible nerve with the flat-stick — especially for a man on his first visit to the Masters.

But as thrillingly well as the others played, no one had reckoned with the son of a chicken farmer from Johannesburg bringing home the bacon.

Perhaps his start should have given it away. Not only did he chip in on the first for birdie, he then went on to hole out his second on the third hole for eagle.

And while others bombed out, lipped out or just ran out of time, Schwartzel held out for the biggest win of his life.

The great Gary Player has often expressed his liking not only for Schwartzel’s swing, but also for his unflappable manner.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Player’s maiden win at Augusta, Schwartzel showed the world that the Black Knight certainly knows a player when he sees one.

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