South Africa’s Schwartzel Wins the 2011 Masters
Augusta, Georgia – South African Charl Schwartzel birdied the final four holes Sunday to capture the 2011 Masters Tournament, outlasting an elite field in one of the wildest finishes in the 75-year-history of the season's first major championship.
Schwartzel, 26, shot a final round low 66-274 total, 14-under-par. He was two shots better than Australians Adam Scott (67) and Jason Day (68), who failed in their quest to become the first-ever Aussies to win the Masters. American Tiger Woods, Australia's Geoff Ogilvy and England's Luke Donald tied for fourth at 10-under 274 after final rounds of 67, 67, 69 respectively.
“It was such an exciting day, so many roars. I don’t think I’ve ever heard roars that loud. I was able to hit some good iron shots and some good putts,” said Schwartzel, who won on the 50th anniversary of South African legend and mentor Gary Player’s first international victory. “A friend of mine told me before today you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I took that attitude to the first hole and it’s good when things start going in your direction.”
The final day began with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy holding a dominating four-shot lead, but it was all gone before he had reached the midway turn. He would end up shooting a final round 80, the highest round by a 54-hole leader since Ken Venturi in 1956. “I hung in there for first nine, I was still tied for the lead, but I had a poor tee shot on No. 10 and it unraveled from there,” McIlroy said. “It was just one of those things. The positives are I led this tournament for 63 holes. I'll have a lot more chances, I know that.”
In the place of McIlroy’s early demise, Woods made another Sunday charge, firing a front nine 31 to tie for the lead, after starting the day seven shots behind McIlroy. He was tied for the lead at 10-under-par at the turn, but as it has so many times at the Masters over last several years, his putting let him down. He missed a short birdie putt at the par 5 13th hole, missed again from 10 feet on 14. He nearly holed his approach shot on No. 15 and 16, but missed both times for eagle and birdie. Two pars at 17 and 18 left him at close, but still winless after 18 months. “I was right there. I’m going to get some food now, I’m starving,” he said briefly after his round. Woods has never won a major championship coming from behind and now has lost the last two majors where he was tied for the lead on the back nine of the final round.
Schwartzel had never won a PGA Tour event and was only playing in his second Masters Tournament, finishing T-30 in 2010. He began the day four shots behind McIlroy, tied for second place. He got his final round off to a great start by rolling in a 70-foot birdie putt from off the green on the first hole, then holing out for an eagle two from the fairway on the par 4 third hole. Just like that, he wiped out McIlroy’s lead after the Northern Irishman started with a bogey and had to scramble just to make par on the second hole.
By the time the final groups got to the turn, there were five golfers tied for the lead. Woods, McIlroy, Angel Cabrera, Scott and Schwartzel. McIlroy hooked his tee shot into the cabins way left of the 10th fairway and would end up making a triple bogey, ending, or at least delaying his chances to become golf’s next young superstar. “I lost a lot of confidence around the turn. I hope to be back,” he said.
When Woods’ back nine putting woes eliminated him, Cabrera ran out of steam and it was left to Schwartzel and the two Australians to battle it out. Scott birdied 14 and 16 and Day birdied the last two holes, but they saw their chances ended when Schwartzel rolled in a long birdie putt on 17, and then, needing only a par on 18 to win, rolled in a 12-foot birdie effort. “I played good today,” Scott said. “I had a putt at the last hole. I couldn’t ask for any more. I feel like my game is in great shape. I just wanted to get back in the mix.”
“I’m very excited. I can’t be disappointed,” Day added. “I've taken a lot of confidence from this week. I’m very happy with the way things are going.”
But in the end, the happiest golfer was the first ever to finish with four straight birdies. “Thank you very much,” Schwartzel said when handed his champion’s green jacket by 2010 winner Phil Mickelson. “It was quite thrilling.”
1) Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 69-71-68-66 (274, -14)
2) Jason Day (AUS) 72-64-72-68 (276, -12)
Adam Scott (AUS) 72-70-67-67
4) Tiger Woods (USA) 71-66-74-67 (278, -10)
Geoff Ogilvy (AUS) 69-69-73-67
Luke Donald (ENG) 72-68-69-69
7) Angel Cabrera (ARG) 71-70-67-71 (279, -9)
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