AUSTRALIA’S golfing heart has once again been broken at the US Masters.
South African Charl Schwartzel snatched the title an Australian has never won with four straight birdies coming home to take the 2011 championship with a final round 66 early today.
Just minutes before, Adam Scott and Jason Day had stood on the 18th congratulating each other as joint clubhouse leaders on 12 under.
Watching them walk up to the 18th and briefly shake hands after both had played exceptional rounds warmed the heart.
There was more pride as 23 year old Day sank a tough downhill putt for birdie to tie Scott on 12 under but there was also a knowing that Scott really needed to sink his birdie putt to have a chance.
When that didn’t happen Schwartzel just needed par to win and his birdie was a fitting climax to a round that began with a chip in birdie on the first and an eagle from the fairway on the second.
He obviously had the momentum and sometimes you just can’t buck history.
50th anniversary of Gary Player victory
The 26 year old ended up donning the green jacket on the 50th anniversary of compatriot Gary Player becoming the first international player (and first South African)to win the Masters.
The final round leader board was acknowledged as one of the most turbulent in the event’s history after four-stroke overnight leader Rory McIlroy imploded on the back to leave the field wide open.
There were at times 10 golfers jockeying to win and twice coming home there were five golfers sharing the lead.
On the second occasion that included three Aussies, Scott, Day and Geoff Ogilvy (67), who posted six straight birdies from the 11th hole on.
Scott took the outright lead on the 14th and was briefly two strokes in front before Schwartzel and then Day rounded him up.
Scott and his broom stick putter were just amazing but the 30 year old Queenlander probably lost the tournament with a wayward second shot from the middle of the fairway on the 17th. He scrambled and made a clutch putt for par but it ruined a great opportunity to get a couple of strokes on Swartzel.
Scott’s putting a revelation
Scott finished with a 67, his second in succession, to be two behind the winner, but if that success with the big putter continues he has a formidable future ahead.
“To be right in the mix is everything I’ve dreamed of. It just didn’t pan out,” Scott said. I’ve got to be pretty proud of the way I played over the weekend. Obviously I can’t control Charl.
“When you birdie the last four holes at the Masters when you’re around the lead, that usually wins. I’m disappointed I didn’t win when I held the lead with a few holes to go. It’s exciting to be in the mix at a major, something I haven’t been able to talk about before.
“It would have made the Masters exciting for [Australian golf fans] to have three guys contending on the back nine on Sunday. It’s been a while.”
His playing partner Day (68) had a magnificent first appearance at the Masters and after being joint leader on a number of occasions and losing that spot, held his nerve in a way that his playing partner of the first three rounds – McIlroy, didn’t.
“I couldn’t do any more than what I did today. Adam and I played wonderful golf and Charl played even better golf,” Day said.
“I’ve known Adam since I was 15. We’ve been good mates since then. We had a lot of fun today. “It was really really good to be in the hunt for the Masters.”
McIlroy still held a one-shot lead when he teed off at the 10th but a triple bogey began the decline.
He collapsed to finish with an 80 and equal 15th but for a 21 year old showed remarkable maturity afterwards to acknowledge it was a steep learning experience that will stand him in great stead in the future.
A learning experience for McIlroy
Tiger Woods also made a big charge and looked ominous with an eagle on the 8th but missed another short putt for eagle on the 15th and remained on 10 under for the rest of the day.
All in all, it was a heart in mouth finish for Australian spectators and despite the ultimate heartache they can take much from the fact that golf down under is in a very good place.