Back 9: Schwartzel Blitzes Augusta National Back 9Written by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
It is said that the Masters doesn’t really start until the Back 9 on Sunday afternoon, when the leaders reach the 10th tee and then face the swirling winds and Rae’s Creek in Amen Corner. The 2011 Masters will go down in history as one of the very best and the Back 9 furnished enough spills and chills to excite even a seasoned NASCAR fan. At one time or another on the Back 9 on Sunday there were 8 different players within 2 shots of the lead. It was anybody’s tournament to win until Schwartzel decided that to take charge and go on a birdie barrage.
21 year old, Rory McIlroy began the last round on Sunday with a four shot lead at -12 under par. He had played beautifully the first three rounds carding 65, 69, and 70. He played steady throughout the front nine on Sunday and held a 2 shot lead as he headed to the Back 9. He pulled his drive on No. 10 so far left that it ended up between two cabins and that was the beginning of the end for Rory. He eventually made a triple bogey on No. 10 and followed that up by making bogey, double bogey, and a par around Amen Corner, shooting 80 for the round. With his collapse at last year’s British Open and now this unfortunate turn of events, our young Rory is getting quite an education in major championship golf. Remember he is only 21 years old. When he does win one of these things he may never stop.
Charl Scwartzel has been a standout on the South African Sunshine Tour and has faired well on the European Tour but no one was prepared for his breakout performance at the Masters. He chipped in for a birdie at No. 1 and holed a wedge from the fairway at No. 3 for an eagle on his way to shooting -2 under 34 on the front. He then strung together ten straight pars and was tied with several players at -10 under par as he reached the 15th tee. He then proceeded to birdie the final four holes, finish at -14 under par and take the Green Jacket right off Adam Scott’s and Jason Day’s backs. It was one of the greatest finishes of all time at the Masters.
Adding to the drama, Tiger Woods even made an appearance on the leader board on Sunday afternoon. He tore up the front side with four birdies and an eagle and carded a -5 under 31. He was tied for the lead briefly at -10 under par but an untimely bogey at No. 12 and just a par on No. 13 put Woods at +1 over par for Amen Corner. He did manage to birdie the par 5, 15th but finished the Back 9 at even par, posted his -10 under par then watched in the locker room as Schwartzel put him out of his misery with his masterful performance. Tiger does seem to be getting closer to championship form eventually finishing T4 the same position as last year when the Masters was his first event of the 2010 season. He was much more confident with his full swings and his long game appeared to be solid. A +2 over par 74 round on Saturday just put him a little to far away to get the win. Sunday’s -5 under par 67 was by far his best round under pressure for a long, long time.
European Tour players continued their domination and now hold all four major championship trophies. Fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen won the 2010 British Open, Irishman, Graeme McDowell, captured the U. S. Open and world No. 1 Martin Kaymer from Germany is the reigning PGA Champion. Tiger with his T4, Bo Van Pelt finishing at T8 and Ryan Palmer in 10th spot were the only Americans in the top ten. Where have you gone Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, and Nick Watney?
Most of the time an event doesn’t live up to all the hype going into start of the tournament. The 2011 Masters didn’t disappoint. The course was immaculate. The broadcast pictures of the rolling landscape, gorgeous flora, and delicately manicured fairways and greens only added to the outstanding golf that was played out on the Back 9 at Augusta National.
I am already anxious for next year.