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Charl Schwartzel Wins Magical Masters

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Charl Schwartzel's performance made for an epic Masters winWilliam Shakespeare himself couldn’t have produced a script like the one witnessed at Augusta yesterday. The fourth round of the 2011 Masters had everything Shakespeare prided himself on. It had tragedy, twists and turns, and a champion in the form of Charl Schwartzel. Charl’s victory would have even brought a sense of déjà vu. Those of the patrons that are old enough would have witnessed Charl’s fellow South African and golf legend, Gary Player win his first Masters exactly fifty years ago.

Schwartzel has triumphed on the same hallowed turf that saw Jack Nicklaus’ win in 1986, Tiger’s amazing victory in ’97 and Phil Mickelson’s dramatic turn around just last year. Despite Augusta National being steeped in tradition and history, it has rarely, if ever, seen events unfold the way they did yesterday.

In a miraculous final day which had everything, Schwartzel’s 66 topped the day, outmatching 67’s from Aussie’s Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy and a thrilling display from Tiger Woods, who could have easily, with a little help from his putter, shot 63 or 64 and gone on to win.

Tiger’s enthralling round of 67 contained as per usual, moments of brilliance, like his approach to the par 5, 8th, which lead to an eagle and moments of madness, as he three putted the treacherous 12th after a good tee shot and then somehow managed to miss his eagle attempt on the 15th. After a towering iron shot typical of the round, Tiger’s boldly struck putt lipped out low of the hole and he had to settle for birdie. Woods, showing some of the iron play that has made him arguably the greatest player of all time, nearly slam-dunked his tee shot on the 16th but he had to settle for pars on his remaining three holes and should be wondering ‘what could have been?’

Schwartzel started the day exactly as he finished it, with an impressive pitch in birdie at the first, a hole which many of the players find difficult every year. However this wasn’t to be his last hole out of the day. After parring the par 5 second, Schwartzel’s effort took a decisive turn for the best as he holed out from the middle of the fairway to give him a tie for the lead with overnight leader Rory McIlroy. His only bogey of the day came at the fourth due to a poor three putt and ten straight pars followed as he successively negotiated Amen corner.

It was at this point that the man from Johannesburg lit up the Augusta crowd. An up and down from the back of the 15th green gave him a solid birdie four and after utilizing the slopes of the Par three 16th to great affect, he holed out from around 15 feet to make it two in a row and share the lead with Adam Scott.

A wild drive from Scott at the 17th seemed to let Schwartzel in but Scott made an unbelievable par, sinking a fifteen footer after he’d been in two bunkers, one of which wasn’t even on the correct hole. Schwartzel’s drive wasn’t quite as wild as Scott’s had been but after he’d leaked it to the right rough a substantial fade was required to get at the pin position, in the back right of the green. Not that this proved a problem for Schwartzel as he duly knocked it to 15 feet before draining the birdie attempt to move into the lead by himself.

Jason Day rounded off a terrific Master’s debut with a birdie at the last to join fellow Aussie, Scott on 12 under, both hoping for a Schwartzel slip up at the last. Their prayers went unheard as the 26th year old played the last hole as perfectly as anyone had done this week. His drive found the middle of the fairway and likewise his approach found the middle of the green and as if Shakespeare had written the script, Schwartzel stepped up to hole his final putt of the day for a majestic birdie three and take the title by two shots.

Overnight leader Rory McIlroy had a disastrous day as his round came unstuck at the downhill Par 4 10th. After his drive caught a tree and rebounded a long way left, he was forced to chip out and eventually carded a disastrous triple bogey. At this point he was still in contention but a four putt at the 12th ended his challenge and a hugely disappointing 80 dropped him down to a tie for 15th place. There’s sure to be plenty of years ahead for the 21 year old Ulsterman to redeem himself.

Augusta seems to inspire players to produce amazing golf and as the first Major of the year, it is always eagerly anticipated by the golfing world. This year, the golf was of an even higher standard than usual and at one point in today’s final round there could have been any of 6 or 7 winners. One man came out on top and Butch Harmon put it best when he said: “If you don’t like this, you don’t like golf!”

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