Then he got to Amen Corner. After dunking his ball in Raes Creek, Flesch didnt have a prayer.
The left-hander took a double-bogey 5 at the picturesque 12th hole, where he knocked his tee shot into the water. Flesch went from just two strokes out of the lead to four, and it all fell apart from there. He played the last seven holes at 6 over, ruining any shot at his first major.
Flesch finished in a tie for fifth after closing with a 78, leaving him six strokes behind winner Trevor Immelman.
I was playing all right, Flesch said. The wind just got really tricky on the back nine and we just pulled the wrong club on the 12th hole and it went straight up and went in the water.
It didnt get much better from there. After making par at the par-5 13th' one of the best shots at birdie on the course'he made four bogeys in a row.
I was just kind of trying to make some putts, trying to make some birdies, trying to be aggressive, and got a little too aggressive on a couple shots, he said. Its a little disheartening and very disappointing, but thats all right. Its still my best finish in a major, and hopefully if I get in the situation again, itll turn out differently.
Flesch went with an 8-iron at the pivotal 12th, believing it would be enough to clear the water on a 154-yard hole thats tucked away in a far corner of the course.
He was wrong.
When I was over it, there wasnt much wind at all and I was aiming it left of the bunker and I hit it solid, Flesch said. But halfway through the flight, it just stood straight up into the wind and I could tell halfway there that it wasnt going to make it.
After taking a drop and a one-shot penalty, Flesch pitched his ball over the water. But he missed a short bogey putt and walked off knowing his chances of winning were probably gone. In the pressure-packed environment of a Sunday at Augusta, his putter deserted him.
As good as I putted the first three days, I just didnt putt very well on the back nine, he said. And thats just how it goes. The back nine on Sunday out here, they get a little more difficult.
EASY DOES IT:
While everyone else was getting blown around Augusta National, Miguel Angel Jimenezs day was a breeze.
The Spaniard shot a 4-under 68 Sunday, the best score of the day and only one of four below par. Not bad for a guy who was so close to the cut line he was playing with a marker Saturday.
That was the goal, no? Just to make the cut on Friday and then hope to jump up as much as possible, said Jimenez, who shot a 77 on Thursday but rebounded with a 70 on Friday to make the cut on the number. After starting Sunday in a tie for 35th, Jimenez moved all the way up to a tie for eighth.
Jimenez holed a 7-iron on the par-4 No. 7 for an eagle, but even more impressive were his three birdies on the back nine when the wind was really beginning to blow. He finished with a flourish, chipping in for a final birdie on 18.
Make no mistake, though. Despite his red numbers, this round was far from easy.
It was a tough day today there. And with under par, I believe its going to be tough to do, Jimenez said. You have to take care of too many things that are going on on the golf course to play with the wind, no? But I was hitting the ball very solid.
A gust of wind blew away Paul Caseys chances of contending for his first major title.
The Englishman, who started the final round four shots off the lead, was standing over a par putt at the sixth hole when his ball moved every so slightly. He called a one-stroke penalty on himself, then putted out for a bogey that should have been a par.
He followed with two more bogeys, made the turn with a 5-over 41 and was no longer a factor.
That took the wind out of my sails, because it was so difficult out there today, Casey said. That kind of threw me for a couple of holes and that was it. Going into the back nine, Im too far back, simple as that.
Casey finished with a 7-over 79, dropping him all the way back to even par for the tournament and into a tie for 11th.
As they say, what doesnt kill you makes you stronger, he said. I still had a great week. Its very disappointing today and Ill go away and think about this, but I have got to take the positives out of it as I always try to do. There was some very, very good golf that I played this week.
Casey wasnt the only one to impose a penalty on himself for the ball moving after it was addressed. Bernhard Langer took away a stroke in the first round, and amateur Michael Thompson called the same penalty on Friday. Both missed the cut.
Arron Oberholsers bogey on the 18th hole might be the last anyone sees of him for a while.
Oberholser has been struggling all year with hand and shoulder injuries, and had already said he will take at least the next two months off. He had talked at one point about playing a few events at the end of the season, but said Sunday hes not even sure about that.
Hes already received a medical exemption for next year.
I dont know that youll be hearing from me the rest of the year, he said. I might just scratch the whole thing and call it a mental health year because Im tired of it. Im sick of it. I didnt enjoy one shot out here today and I enjoyed very few shots this week. Im just burnt out.
Oberholser had surgery last October to correct a recurring problem in his left hand. But he thinks he might have come back too soon because the area' right where he grips the golf club'still hurts with every swing. He doesnt plan to even touch a club for two months, and hopes that will help because more surgery is not an option.
Ill quit golf before Ill have another surgery, he said. Ill quit competitive golf. Mark my words. Its not worth it to me.
Despite his struggles, Oberholser played solidly and began Sunday in good shape for a top-16 finish, which would have earned him an invitation back for next year. But he straggled home with a 5-over 77, including a double bogey on the par-5 15th.
He finished the tournament at 4-over 292, tying for 25th.
I dont care about the top 50 anymore. I dont care about coming back to the Masters. I dont care about making the majors. I just want to be healthy, Oberholser said. Ill take healthy and the Nationwide Tour vs. playing out here constantly hurt.
HAND IT OVER:
At least Zach Johnson gets to keep his spot in the champions locker room.
Any chance Johnson had of winning another green jacket ended early Sunday. After a birdie on No. 2, he finished the front nine with three bogeys in the last five holes. He finished with a 5-over 77, and wound up in a tie for 20th.
Johnson was there for the green jacket presentation, but only to give it to the newest winner, Trevor Immelman.
Having the green jacket on my back for a year has been fantastic, Johnson said. Its one of those things you dont want to give up. But, you know, thats why we play it every year.
Johnsons victory at last years Masters was considered by many to be little more than a fluke of the weather. The blustery cold prevented others from going low and allowed him to play it safe'he didnt go for a single par 5 all week' and his 1-over 289, tied for highest winning scorer in Masters history.
But he showed this week that he can play a little at Augusta National. After shooting a 76 on Friday, he came back with a 68 Saturday that tied for low round of the day. He finished the tournament at 3-over 291.
The more you play it the better off you become. Its just experience, Johnson said. You cant put a price on playing it year in and year out. Thats just, the more I play it, the better off Im going to become.
Tiger Woods finished second for a second straight year. The scoring average in cool, blustery conditions Sunday was 74.66, highest of the week. No one in the final 11 groups broke par Sunday. Trevor Immelman joins Gary Player as the only South Africans to win the Masters. Immelman is the first foreign champion since Canadas Mike Weir in 2003.