Waiting for him at the top of the staircase was his father, Johan. The two embraced and spoke briefly, relieved to have a quiet moment alone, comforted by the calm that followed the Sunday storm at Augusta National, both utterly oblivious to the approaching gale.
Every players life changes after a victory, be the haul of the major variety or otherwise, but few, if any, are prepared for the drastically changing landscape that follows a Masters triumph.
In the months that followed Immelmans Sunday in Georgia the gravity of the green jacket took a professional toll the likeable South African is still dealing with. A player who had, at least in the United States, made his professional bones by gliding along under the radar was now atop every marquee. Fans and media clamored for his attention, business opportunities emerged from the four corners of the globe and expectations mounted.
Hes just now coming out of the Masters euphoria. Its a lot on a young man, said David Leadbetter, Immelmans longtime swing coach. There is a lot of outside pressure on a young player to handle and get balance in his life. There is a lot of other stuff that comes with winning a major championship.
Immelman, like his mentor Gary Player, had always been an international player. Hed began his career on the PGA European Tour and took time each fall to go back to South Africa and support that countrys tour. But following his Masters breakthrough, his globetrotting reached a crescendo.
By seasons end, Immelman had played 26 events on four continents including Europe, Africa and Asia. Perhaps predictably, his play dropped off, with the 29-year-old posting five top 10s globally but just a single legitimate shot at victory when he tied for second place in Memphis.
What Ive had to get used to was being able to set my schedule, Immelman said. Build in time for things like the media wanting to speak to me, having to stop for fans more regularly to take photos. Initially that was a difference because I wasnt used to all that kind of thing.
On a micro-level, Brandt Snedeker can certainly understand the fishbowl Immelman suddenly found himself. Snedeker dueled with the South African coming down the stretch, closing with 77 to finish third and endearing himself to fans and the media with an emotional post-round assessment of his play.
Less than 48 hours after his Masters near-miss, Snedeker was stunned as he teed off in the pro-am for the Verizon Heritage. There were more fans lining Harbor Towns fairways to get a glimpse at Americas next young star than were on hand to watch Snedekers maiden victory at the Wyndham Championship in 2007.
I cant imagine the opportunities that Trevor had in front of him after winning last year, Snedeker said. Just seeing it from my little bit, you could do something new every day if you wanted to. Balancing your life after something like that is a full-time job. You dont realize that until five or six months later.
It was a reality that Zach Johnson learned quickly following his 2007 Masters victory. Although he was already a Tour winner and U.S. Ryder Cup staple, a post-Masters media blitz to New York City was an eye-opening experience for the kid from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
There was a wow factor, said Brad Buffoni, Johnsons manager with SFX. When we were walking down Time Square and everybody noticed him, at that moment you saw the power of the green jacket.
Johnson, however, seemed to have an upper hand on his 15 minutes of frenzied fame. One of the most structured players on Tour kept to his proven routines, won his third Tour title four weeks after the Masters and enters next weeks tournament among the early favorites.
Others have not been as structured, or as fortunate.
Perhaps the quintessential victim of success was Nick Price, who won the 1983 World Series of Golf and with it a 10-year Tour exemption. It took Price nearly eight years to win his next Tour title
He didnt handle that very well, Leadbetter said. He had this 10-year exemption and he just kind of went through the motions. It lulled him into a false sense of security.
Conversely, it was another Nick, Faldo, who Leadbetter said used success to push himself even harder. Faldo used it as a springboard to get ready for his next major, Leadbetter said. He was so fired up to win the next one.
To many observers it is Tiger Woods ability to remain focused and driven after 14 major championship victories that separates him from the rest of the pack, but even the world No. 1 appeared to need a learning curve following his first Masters victory. In the wake of his 12-stroke major moment in 1997 at Augusta National, Woods went 0-for-10 in Grand Slam events over the next two years.
Much of that can be attributed to Woods first major swing change as a professional, but there is certainly something to be said for feeling comfortable in the skin of a major champion.
There are no how to books that help first-time Masters champions through the pitfalls of fame and fortune. In fact, it seems the only solution is solace.
Its hard to say no. Its the hardest thing in golf, Snedeker said. You almost have to turn your phone off and your e-mails off. Put the blinders on. I always talk about being the No. 4 horse in the sixth race. Just keep your head down and go straight ahead.