Immelman Grabs First Green Jacket

By Associated PressApril 13, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Trevor Immelman has never felt better.
 
Four months after he had a tumor removed from his back, Immelman handled the wind and pressure of Augusta National far better than anyone chasing him Sunday to win the Masters, the first South African in a green jacket in 30 years.
 
Immelman held it together around Amen Corner and stretched his lead to as many as six shots on the back nine, taking the life out of a Masters that began with so much hype.
 
A two-putt par on the final hole gave him a 3-over 75, matching the highest final round by a Masters champion. Even so, it was good enough for a three-shot victory over Tiger Woods, whose hopes for a calendar Grand Slam ended with a thud.
 
Woods never got within five shots of the lead when he was on the course, twice missed birdie putts inside 8 feet and had to settle for a 72 and his second consecutive runner-up finish in the Masters.
 
I learned my lesson there with the press, Woods said with a smile. He was the one who started the talk about a Grand Slam by stating three months ago that winning all four majors in the same year was easily within reason.
 
The only slam possibilities now belong to Immelman, a 28-year-old with a polished swing, who finally realized his potential in the wicked wind of Augusta and a final round that yielded only four rounds under par.
 
Immelman, who finished at 8-under 280, started the week by playing a practice round with his boyhood idol, Gary Player, who won his third Masters in 1978 and set a record by playing for the 51st time.
 
Player told Immelman he was good enough to win the green jacket, and he left him a voicemail Saturday night that Immelman played on his speaker phone for his family to hear. The message: I know youre going to win.
 
Hes been on me all week, telling me to believe in myself, Immelman said. He also told me to keep my head still on putts. Its really a special moment, and Im glad I pulled it through for him.
 
Reached by telephone in Abu Dhabi, Player told his assistant: I am so proud of Trevor. What a thrill it was to see him come back from major surgery and beat Tiger. I cant wait to see him and shake his hand personally.
 
Immelmans wife, Carminita, and their 1-year-old son were waiting for him behind the green. Jacob took hold of the 18th flag, fussing when he couldnt go into the scoring shack to be with his father.
 
Immelmans parents also were there to greet him with hugs. His father, Johan, is the former commissioner of the Sunshine Tour in South Africa.
 
Its his moment, not mine, said the father, who waved away a reporter.
 
No one doubted he was capable of winning a major, but maybe not this one. Only four months ago, doctors discovered a tumor in his diaphragm that required surgery through his back to remove it. The tumor was benign and the recovery was quick, even though it took him two months to get his game back in shape.
 
The recovery hit warp speed this week at Augusta, where Immelman had only broken par once in his five previous Masters.
 
This has been the ultimate roller-coaster ride, and I hate roller coasters, Immelman said. I win the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, and a week later Im having an operation to remove a tumor. I felt like I had to start from zero again. Here I am after missing the cut last week.
 
Masters champion'its the craziest thing Ive ever heard of.
 
Immelman built a two-shot lead with three rounds in the 60s, and held it together during a few nervy moments.
 
He made a 10-foot par save from the bunker at No. 9 to keep a two-shot cushion, but continued to look shaky. Immelman missed the 11th green well to the right when his chip didnt quite reach and he was left with a 20-foot putt that was slick and dangerous.
 
Ahead of him, Woods was gaining momentum.
 
Woods holed a 70-foot birdie putt on the 11th, made an acrobatic escape from the trees on the 13th and spun a wedge down the slope on the par-5 13th that left him 5 feet away for birdie.
 
Immelman holed his par putt. Woods missed, just as he has done the last two years on the back nine of a major he once dominated. Brandt Snedeker and Steve Flesch, the last two players with any hope, folded quickly.
 
Woods closed with a 72 and has finished 3-2-2 in his last three Masters. It also was his fifth runner-up in a major.
 
Immelman earned $1.35 million for his second PGA Tour victory, with Woods also finishing second behind him two years ago in the Western Open.
 
I was trying to be tough out there, Immelman said. Theres a disaster around every corner.
 
Emotions were running wild for all the contenders, none more than Snedeker, who tied for third with Stewart Cink. The 27-year-old American with Huck Finn looks and a constant smile made only six pars in his round of 77, tying for the lead with an eagle on the second hole but stumbling badly the rest of the way.
 
I went from extreme highs to extreme lows, and thats what you dont want to do around here, Snedeker said.
 
Flesch was within two shots of the lead until a gust caught his 8-iron on the 12th hole, sending it into Raes Creek for a double bogey. He bogeyed four straight holes after that and shot 78.
 
Ultimately, everyone made it easy on Immelman. The three guys behind him at the start of the final round were a combined 18-over par.
 
Woods wasnt much better. He managed only three birdies, the last one from 18 feet on the final hole that came way too late. Woods could only offer a dismissive wave when the ball disappeared.
 
I hit the ball well enough to contend, Woods said. I definitely hit the ball well enough to put some pressure on Trevor. I just didnt make any putts.
 
The first blast of wind hit Amen Corner an hour before the leaders teed off, a sign of how tough it would be in the final round. And that didnt account for the pressure on four guys contending for the first time in a major'at Augusta, no less.
 
The first to fall was Paul Casey, two shots out of the lead until it took him two shots to get out of the bunker on No. 4 for double bogey. Casey dropped six shots in a five-hole stretch, including the par-3 sixth, when he called a penalty on himself for his ball moving a fraction of an inch as he stood over a 3-foot putt. Casey closed with a 79.
 
For the others, it took awhile longer to collapse.
 
Snedeker provided most of the excitement on an otherwise dull day, holing a 35-foot eagle putt on No. 2 for a share of the lead. He made a 45-foot birdie putt across the green on the 12th for a birdie to pull within three shots.
 
But there was a massive shortage of pars, and far too many mistakes.
 
The biggest came on the par-5 13th. Riding the momentum from a two-shot swing on the previous hole, Snedeker went for the green in two and left it well out to the right, finding the bottom of Raes Creek for the second straight day. Snedeker held the club at both ends and flexed the shaft, wanting to snap it in half.
 
Golly, man, if somebody could tell me how to play that second shot, Id love to know, he said. Because two days in a row, Ive hit it in the damn water.
 
Immelman wisely laid up, then fired a wedge into the back bank and watched it roll down to 2 feet for birdie. As the bogeys piled up behind him, the South African suddenly found himself in the most beautiful spot at Augusta.
 
He had a five-shot lead with five holes to play, most of the trouble out of the way.
 
His lone mistake was a tee shot into the water on the 16th for double bogey, but by then he could afford it.
 
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    Tiger Tracker: Farmers Insurance Open

    By Tiger TrackerJanuary 23, 2018, 4:00 pm

    Tiger Woods is competing in a full-field event for the first time in nearly a year. We're tracking him at this week's Farmers Insurance Open. (Note: Tweets read, in order, left to right)


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    Wie's goal to reach goals: Just. Stay. Healthy.

    By Randall MellJanuary 23, 2018, 3:30 pm

    Michelle Wie’s player bio should come with medical charts.

    Her caddie would be well served if he could read X-rays as well as he reads greens.

    Remarkably, Wie will begin her 13th full season as a pro when she tees it up Thursday in the LPGA’s season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

    Wie is only 28, but on some days, she must feel like she’s going on 40.

    It isn’t the years, it’s the mileage. Her body has too often been like an exotic sports car, a sleek and powerful machine capable of thrilling rides ... when it isn’t sitting it in the shop for weeks for repairs. There’s been one breakdown after another, spoiling her rides.

    That’s why one burning desire trumps all others for Wie as she begins this new year.

    “Being healthy, staying healthy, it’s my No. 1 priority,” Wie told GolfChannel.com. “I hired private physios at the end of last year, to work on my body. I’ve been working with my doctors in New York, and they’ve been doing a great job of getting me to a place where I’m pain free.

    “For the most part, I’m feeling pretty good and pretty healthy. I’ve got little aches and pains from hitting so many balls over the years, but I’m really excited about starting this year. I feel really driven this year. I just want to be healthy so I can build some momentum and be able to play at 100 percent.”



    Wie would love to see what she can do in an injury-free, illness-free year after all the promising work she put into rebuilding her game last year. She seemed on the brink of something special again.

    “We worked last week, and Michelle looked really, really good,” said David Leadbetter, her swing coach. “It’s quite impressive the way she’s hitting the ball. She is hitting it long and feeling good about her game. So, the main goal really is to see if she can go injury free.”

    After winning twice in 2014, including the U.S. Women’s Open, Wie battled through a troublesome finger injury in the second half of that year. Hip, knee and ankle injuries followed the next year. She didn’t just lose all her good momentum. She lost the swing she grooved.

    Wie rebuilt it all last year, turning her draw into a dependable fade that allowed her to play more aggressively again. She loved being able to go hard at the ball again, without fearing where it might go. The confidence from that filtered into every part of her game. She started hitting more drivers again.

    And Wie found yet another eccentric but effective putting method, abandoning her table-top putting stance for a rotating trio of grips (conventional, left-hand low and claw). She would use them all in a single round. It was weird science, but it worked as she moved to a more classic, upright stance.

    “It’s not pretty, but it’s working,” Stacy Lewis said after playing with Wie at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship last summer.

    Wie said she’s going back and forth between conventional and left-hand low now.

    “I can’t promise I’ll stay the same way all year,” Wie said. “But even with different grips, I stayed with the same putting philosophy all year. I want to keep doing that.”

    Leadbetter calls Wie a rebel in her approach to the game. She’s a power player, but she carried a 9-wood and 11-wood last year. She says the 11-wood will be back in her bag this week. Her unorthodox ways go beyond technique, strategy and equipment. She’ll be sporting pink hair come Thursday.

    “She has never been orthodox,” Leadbetter said. “She doesn’t like to conform. She’s always liked to buck the system in some way.”

    Wie looked as if she were poised to make a run at her fifth career title last season. She logged six finishes of fourth place or better the first half of the year. She contended at the ANA Inspiration, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and the Ricoh Women’s British Open.

    And then a neck spasm knocked her out of the U.S. Women’s Open.

    And then emergency appendectomy surgery knocked her out for six weeks at summer’s end. It kept her from playing the year’s final major, the Evian Championship.

    “I can’t list all the injuries Michelle has had in her career,” Leadbetter said. “I don’t think there is one joint or bone in her body that hasn’t had some sort of injury or issue.”

    Over the last three seasons alone, Wie has played through bursitis in her left hip, a bone spur in her left foot and inflammation in her left knee. She has battled neck spasms and back spasms. There have been platelet rich plasma injections to aid healing, and there have been too many cortisone injections for her liking.

    There also have been ongoing issues in both wrists.

    In fact, Wie, who broke two bones in her left wrist early in her career, is dealing with arthritic issues in both wrists of late. She underwent collagen injections this off season to try to be more pain free.

    “I’ve had to pull back the last couple years, restrict the number of balls I hit, not practice as much as I would like, but I was able to put in a lot of work this offseason,” Wie said. “I’m excited about this year, but I’ve been smart about things.”

    Leadbetter says he has been focusing on injury prevention when working with Wie. He worries about the stress that all the torque she creates can have on her body, with her powerful coil and the way she sometimes likes to hold off shots with her finish. His work, sometimes, is pulling her back from the tinkering she loves to do.

    “Everything we do with her swing now is to help prevent injury,” he said.

    Leadbetter relishes seeing what’s possible in 2018 if there are no setbacks.

    “Michelle would be the first to admit she hasn’t reached anywhere near her potential,” Leadbetter said. “We all know what she is capable of. We’ve had fleeting glimpses. Now, it’s a matter of, ‘OK, let’s see if we can really fulfill the potential she’s had from a very young age.’

    “She’s really enthusiastic about this year. She can’t wait to get back in the mix.”

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    How Rahm can overtake DJ for OWGR No. 1 this week

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 23, 2018, 2:50 pm

    Editor's note: Information and text provided by Golf Channel's Official World Golf Ranking expert, Alan Robison.

    Despite having fewer worldwide wins, fewer top-5 finishes, fewer top-25 finishes and more missed cuts over the past two years, Jon Rahm is poised to overtake Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win in this week’s Farmers Insurance Open. 

    The Rise of Rahm is meteoric, but how is this possible? After all, Rahm has five worldwide wins vs. eight for Johnson in the same span? 

    We’ll start with the raw numbers over the 104-week cycle of the Official World Golf Ranking. These numbers include a win for Rahm in this week’s Farmers (the only way he could get to No. 1; DJ is not playing):


      Dustin Johnson Jon Rahm
    Events   46 40
    Wins  8 (1 major, 3 WGCs) 5 (3 PGA Tour, 2 Euro)
    Top 5 finishes   20 16
    Top 10 finishes  26 19
    Top 25 finishes  37 26
    MC or 0 OWGR Pts earned  4 7

    Johnson leads Rahm in every possible category, so you may be wondering, again, how is Rahm replacing DJ possible? 

    To understand this, you would need to understand the Official World Golf Ranking, which is all about the power of math, a recency bias and the divisor.

    The ranking system can feel a bit overwhelming, so here are a couple of topline bullet points:

    • The ranking is a 104-week period (two years) that evaluates a player’s performance.
    • Events are given a certain weight and bigger events have a higher point total.
    • Majors are worth 100 points to the winner. The Players champ is given 80 points. From there, you will see events weighted in the 70s for most WGCs, down to 24 for PGA Tour events opposite WGCs and majors.
    • The number assigned to an event has to do with the quality of field – the more top 10/20/50/100 players that are in a field, the higher the weighting.

    Next, you can look at how recent the event was to determine its true value to a player. Dustin Johnson’s 2016 U.S. Open victory was given 100 points, but now he’s only receiving 23.9 percent of its original weight. Conversely, Rahm’s win at the CareerBuilder Challenge was only worth 40 points, but because it happened on Sunday, he’s receiving the full allotment of points.

    Why is DJ getting 23.9 percent of his U.S. Open total? Doesn’t that seem arbitrary? Actually, the OWGR has an intricate formula to determine the value of events. Any event a player has started in the previous 13 weeks is given full value. For the remaining 91 weeks, events drop off at a rate of 1.09 percent until they eventually fall off. Here’s an example:

    • Event 25 weeks ago: 86.96 percent of value
    • Event 50 weeks ago: 59.78 percent of value
    • Event 75 weeks ago: 32.61 percent of value
    • Event 100 weeks ago: 5.43 percent of value

    With a win at Farmers, Rahm would have three victories and a runner-up finish inside the last 13 weeks.  That would total to 175.60, given full-point value. After this week, DJ would only have three events in the last 13 weeks and those finishes are T9-win-T14, for a total of 67.32.

    Rahm is taking advantage of the full value for three of his five professional wins.

    There is still one more important piece of the formula and that’s the divisor.

    The OWGR has determined that each player must have a minimum number of events and a maximum number of events, in order to protect players.

    For instance, when Rahm won the Farmers a year ago he received 54 points. It was his 13th event and if 13 had been his divisor he would have had an OWGR total of 4.15, immediately placing him inside the top 20. Instead, to be more fair, it’s divided by the minimum number of 40 events played, giving him 1.35, which was around 110th (Rahm, though, had received enough points in his other 12 events that his win moved him to 46th in the OWGR at the time).

    The maximum number is as important as the minimum. Many players compete in up to 60 events over the course of two years. Instead of hurting them by counting every event, the OWGR only counts the 52 most recent events in the 104-week cycle.

    Why is the divisor so important? Because math. If a player wins a major (100 points) and has the minimum divisor, that major is worth 2.5 points (100/40). A player winning that same major who has the max divisor (52 events) only gains 1.92 points.

    In the case of Rahm and Johnson, it’s Rahm who is taking advantage of his divisor in attaining maximum value for his play. Here’s a table of what it would look like after this week (again calculating for a Rahm win) to help explain:


      Dustin Johnson Jon Rahm
    Total points earned:  960.82 557.26
    OWGR valued points 493.08 433.39
    OWGR divisor/events 46 40
    Projected OWGR after Farmers 10.72 10.83

    What’s amazing about these numbers is that Rahm is still maintaining 77.78 percent of his original value on the points that he’s earned. As we said earlier, three wins are 100 percent. His Irish Open win is 81.82 percent, while even his 2017 Farmers victory is still earning 56.5 percent of its original value.

    On the other side, DJ is only maintaining 51.3 percent of his total points earned.

    And there you have it. The math favors Rahm, who is still on the outset of his career. Eventually, it will hurt him. But, for now – and right now – Rahm has an opportunity to take all of these numbers and turn them into the world’s No. 1 ranking.

    To do that, the scenario is quite simple: Win this week.

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    Stock Watch: Strange grumpy; Tiger Time again?

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 1:00 pm

    Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

    RISING

    Jon Rahm (+9%): This should put his whirlwind 17 months in the proper context: Rahm (38) has earned four worldwide titles in 25 fewer starts – or a full season quicker – than Jordan Spieth (63). This kid is special.

    Tommy Fleetwood (+7%): Putting on a stripe show in windy conditions, the Englishman defended his title in Abu Dhabi (thanks to a back-nine 30) and capped a 52-week period in which he won three times, contended in majors and WGCs, and soared inside the top 15 in the world.

    Sergio (+3%): Some wholesale equipment changes require months of adjustments. In Garcia’s case, it didn’t even take one start, as the new Callaway staffer dusted the field by five shots in Singapore.

    Rory (+2%): Sure, it was a deflating Sunday finish, as he shot his worst round of the week and got whipped by Fleetwood, but big picture he looked refreshed and built some momentum for the rest of his pre-Masters slate. That’s progress.

    Ken Duke (+1%): Looking ahead to the senior circuit, Duke, 48, still needs a place to play for the next few years. Hopefully a few sponsors saw what happened in Palm Springs, because his decision to sub in for an injured Corey Pavin for the second and third rounds – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard – was as selfless as it gets.


    FALLING

    Austin Cook (-1%): The 54-hole leader in the desert, he closed with 75 – the worst score of anyone inside the top 40. Oy.

    Phil (-2%): All of that pre-tournament optimism was tempered by the reality of his first missed cut to start the new year since 2009. Now ranked 45th in the world, his position inside the top 50 – a spot he’s occupied every week since November 1993 – is now in jeopardy.

    Careful What You Wish For (-3%): Today’s young players might (foolishly) wish they could have faced Woods in his prime, but they’ll at least get a sense this week of the spectacle he creates. Playing his first Tour event in a year, and following an encouraging warmup in the Bahamas, his mere presence at Torrey is sure to leave everyone else to grind in obscurity.

    Curtis Strange (-5%): The two-time U.S. Open champ took exception with the chummy nature of the CareerBuilder playoff, with Rahm and Andrew Landry chatting between shots. “Are you kidding me?” Strange tweeted. “Talking at all?” The quality of golf was superb, so clearly they didn’t need to give each other the silent treatment to summon their best.

    Brooks Koepka (-8%): A bummer, the 27-year-old heading to the DL just as he was starting to come into his own. The partially torn tendon in his left wrist is expected to knock him out of action until the Masters, but who knows how long it’ll take him to return to game shape.