En­joy­ing the view af­ter win­ning Masters

The Covington News - - Sports -

All be­cause he did some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary.

Not since Seve Balles­teros in 1980 had a player put his name atop the leader­board af­ter the first round and stay there over four days at Au­gusta Na­tional, a course where Im­mel­man cor­rectly noted that there’s “a dis­as­ter around ev­ery cor­ner.” He be­came the first South African to win the Masters since Gary Player, his idol and in­spi­ra­tion, 30 years ear­lier.

And he joined Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, David Du­val and Vi­jay Singh as the play­ers to win a ma­jor by three shots in the last 10 years.

“That’s pretty hefty com­pany,” Im­mel­man said. “It will take some time be­fore that sinks in.”

Un­til his Masters vic­tory, Im­mel­man said his great­est golf­ing achieve­ment had been win­ning the Ned­bank Chal­lenge four months ago in South Africa, an event he re­gards one notch be­low the ma­jors.

That cel­e­bra­tion wasn’t quite like this one.

Im­mel­man wasn’t get­ting a whirl­wind tour of New York, rather he was in a hospi­tal lis­ten­ing to doc­tors ex­plain that the pain he felt in his rib cage turned out to be a tu­mor in his di­aphragm. Within a week, he was hav­ing his back cut open to re­move the lump, and only later did he learn it was be­nign.

“Since I was a young boy, very deep down I felt I was good enough to win a ma­jor,” Im­mel­man said. “As crazy a game as golf is, you go through pe­ri­ods where you doubt your­self. Af­ter the surgery, I pretty much had to start at Level 1 again and build my game up again. It was un­be­liev­able tim­ing to find my form last week.”

“Un­less you’re Tiger Woods,” he added, “you don’t know how of­ten that op­por­tu­nity presents it­self.”

The op­por­tu­nity ar­rived Sun­day, and Im­mel­man seized it — just as Zach John­son did at the Masters a year ago, just as An­gel Cabr­era did at Oak­mont, Michael Camp­bell at Pine­hurst No. 2, Rich Beem at Hazel­tine.

All won ma­jors with Woods lurk­ing on the back nine.

“I don’t think it’s ever easy to win a ma­jor in any era,” Im­mel­man said. “As you say, I’m play­ing in Tiger Woods’ era. This guy is fright­en­ing in what he gets done and how he gets it done and the ease in which he gets it done. To win a ma­jor while he’s play­ing — and he’s play­ing at his peak — it’s a hell of an achieve­ment.”

The trick will be get­ting grounded once he comes down from the Em­pire State Build­ing.

Only three ma­jor cham­pi­ons over the last 10 years — Shaun Micheel, Ben Cur­tis and Lee Janzen — won noth­ing else but a ma­jor. Im­mel­man might not have been any­one’s pick at Au­gusta Na­tional, but he was part of a B-list group of fa­vorites along the lines of a Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Ste­wart Cink or Adam Scott.

That’s not to sug­gest Im­mel­man is go­ing to win the Grand Slam.

Even he was the first to con­cede that.

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