The 2011 Masters golf tournament exceeded all expectations and predictions. Once again, an unknown won a major, although the tournament gave 10 players a real chance at the last minute. The Masters appeared to be headed for an anticlimactic finish, with Rory McIlroy in complete control much of the way. But after a bogey at No. 1, McIlroy’s tumble would get worse from there, setting the stage for a vintage Augusta finish.
With the likes of Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Geoff Ogilvy, K.J. Choi, Angel Cabrera and Luke Donald leaping over McIlroy, few saw Charl Schwartzel coming. The South African made the first big charge with a birdie and eagle in the first few holes. But after 11 straight pars, Schwartzel put together the afternoon’s best finish as well.
Everyone heralded the 2011 Masters as the 25th anniversary of Jack Nicklaus’ big comeback. Since then, no other golf tournament at Augusta had ended with someone going -4 in the last four holes. But Schwartzel actually outdid Nicklaus in his closing, since Nicklaus had two birdies and an eagle and Schwartzel got birdies on No. 15, 16, 17 and 18.
Although the 25th anniversary of a legendary win was honored all week, this was the 50th anniversary of another big milestone. On April 10, 1961, South African Gary Player became the first golfer outside of America to win the green jacket. Exactly 50 years later, another South African lived up to Player’s legacy.
In a final round where so many people were bunched together, Schwartzel finally broke from the pack with mistake-free golf throughout. His 66 ultimately outshined the 67 from Woods, Scott and Ogilvy, and the 68 from Day. All of them were considerably better than McIlroy, however, as his 80 was the biggest collapse from a third round leader since Greg Norman in 1996.
Schwartzel became the second South African to win a major in the last year, after fellow unknown Louis Oosthuizen took the British Open last summer. But nowadays, unknowns have a better shot to win major titles, especially with Tiger Woods still on the snide.
Woods fired everyone up with his final charge in the front nine, yet provided fresh disappointment in the back nine. Despite not having enough in the last holes, he still finished tied for fourth, which is better than usual for him lately. In fact, he was tied for fourth for the second straight year, as Woods remains consistent enough to contend at Augusta despite all his recent faults.
In 2011, the Masters celebrated a lot of golf history, yet this tournament managed to make even more of it. Every 25 years, there seems to be a historic and notable finish, with Schwartzel now joining Player and Nicklaus as Augusta legends.
Yahoo Sports- “The Masters: Leaderboard”
New York Times- “Schwartzel Charges to Victory at Masters”
MSNBC.com- “On golden anniversary, South Africa shines again with Schwartzel”
ESPN- “Young cubs eclipse Tiger at Masters”