Sunday’s final round of the Masters will possibly go down as one of the most thrilling final rounds in the history of golf.
Rory McIlroy headed into the final round with a four-shot lead over Jason Day, Angel Cabrera, K.J. Choi, and Charl Schwartzel. Tiger Woods started the day seven shots off the lead, and needed a hot start in order to have an outside chance of winning his 5th green jacket.
Many thought the only challengers McIlroy needed to avoid would be from the logjam of players at 8-under (Day, Cabrera, Choi, and Schwartzel). By the time McIlroy teed off at 2:40pm EST, there were challengers coming from everywhere. Schwartzel chipped in for birdie at #1 and holed out for eagle at #3 to move to 11-under and a tie for 1st place, as McIlroy bogeyed the opening hole. Tiger birdied five of the 1st eight holes to move to 10-under. And when McIlroy bogeyed the fifth hole to move to 10-under, the green jacket was up for grabs. Cabrera, Choi, and Schwartzel all shot a 2-under on the front nine to get to 10-under. As the final group, McIlroy and Cabrera, made the turn, there was a growing pack that all were within striking distance..
Then came the downward spiral for McIlroy. His tee shot on the 495-yard par-4 tenth hole hit a tree and came to rest next to the cabins, which was about 100 yards left of the fairway. He had to pitch it back to the fairway, and still had about a 225-yard 3-wood shot to the green. He missed the green to the left and after hitting another tree with a lob shot, he finished the hole with a triple-bogey seven. Rory never recovered as he three-putted from 7-feet on the 11th hole, and four-putted from 12-feet on the 13th hole. After he hit his drive into the creek on the 13th hole, the TV cameras showed McIlroy as he buried his head into his forearm and you could only feel for the young 21-year old and the anguish he was experiencing.
Tiger, who was on fire to start his round on the front nine, couldn’t keep it going on the back nine and finished the tournament at 10-under. Geoff Ogilvy, who started the day at 5-under, birdied five straight holes on the back nine to get to 10-under. They were both in the clubhouse waiting for the final groups to finish, and see if their posted scores would be enough to force a playoff. Luke Donald started the day at 7-under, and came to the par-3 12th hole at 9-under par and right in the middle of the race. He ended up hitting his ball into the water and taking a double-bogey to fall to 7-under. Everyone thought his run was over, but what he did over the last six holes was memorable. He birdied holes 13, 15, and 16 to get to 10-under. He bogeyed the 17th hole and needed a birdie on the closing hole to join the posted scores of Woods and Ogilvy at 10-under par. Donald’s second shot from the fairway hit the flagstick, bounced backwards, and rolled off the green. He chipped in for birdie to join Woods and Ogilvy at 10-under. But by the time Donald had chipped in, Scott and Day had already left the 17th green with Scott at 11-under, after making birdie on the 16th hole and making a 9-foot par putt on the 17th green.
Jason Day also made a late push to join the other challengers, as he birdied holes 12, 13, and 17 to get to 11-under. On the final hole, Day needed to make a birdie putt of about 6-feet to post a score of 12-under. And he most certainly did. After Scott missed his birdie putt and ran it by the hole about 3-feet, he made his par putt, and both of the Aussies posted a score of 12-under for the tournament. Woods, Ogilvy, and Donald, who were in the clubhouse at 10-under, no longer needed to wait around.
Now there was only one more player on the course that could either join Day and Scott at 12-under, or post a lower score and win the green jacket. Charl Schwartzel, who started the day at 8-under par, made the turn at 10-under and then reeled off five straight pars. What transpired next is what champions are made of.
Schwartzel made three consecutive birdies on holes 15-17 to get to 13-under. All he needed to do was par the 18th hole, and the Masters title was his. He ended up making his birdie putt to finish the tournament at 14-under. And Charl Schwartzel had the elusive green jacket.
Sometimes we look at the majors and talk about how a certain player lost the tournament because of a poor shot here or a poor putt there. Other than what happened to Rory McIlroy, that was not the case for this tournament. There were sensational shots by every player in the last seven groups. No matter where you were on the course, you could hear cheers and roars that were loud and often. At one point, there were no less than eight players that held a share of the lead on the back nine. The atmosphere was electric. The leaderboard was changing hole by hole, and the excitement was something that has not been seen for a long time in the sport of golf. I was getting texts from people who have never had any interest in watching golf, and they were saying how crazy and insane this tournament was on Sunday.
So what do we take away from the Masters this year? We see that Tiger Woods is a lot closer than we think to being the Tiger that we are so used to seeing on the leaderboard in major championships. He will surely look back at this Masters and know that it was his putting that hurt his chances of winning his 15th major. He hit numerous great shots in all four rounds, but in the end, it was his putter that failed him. Rory McIlroy is a very talented golfer and will surely be in contention for numerous majors in the next few years. I don’t believe he choked. He did collapse, but we need to remember that he is a 21-year old and a four-shot lead on the final day at the Masters is not a lot. Just ask Greg Norman, who blew a six-shot lead in 1996 to Nick Faldo, who ended up beating Norman by five strokes. McIlroy should be applauded for his reaction after the tournament. He stood by and gave interview after interview. Most athletes today would be out the door to hide from the media after such a horrible day. He said it was a “character-building day”, and he showed lots of it. I see him learning from this experience and using that the next time he is in contention for a major, which I hope is very soon.
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Written by Mike Cid