Schwartzel began the day four shots off the lead, and with a reputation as a
player who can barely find a fairway outside his native South Africa.
him a second thought as potential Masters champion, and we still weren't paying
attention with four holes to go, and the 26-year-old just a couple of shots
And then it
happened. He birdied 15 and 16 to draw level, then 17 to take the outright
lead. Suddenly the nowhere man of Masters Sunday was a par at the last away from the famous
Even then we
needed convincing. A rasping drive, a composed approach shot, and yet another 10-footer
for birdie at 18 - and the jacket was well and truly on his back. It was an
unpredictable end, to the most unpredictable of final rounds in recent Majors
history. And you doubt even Schwartzel himself saw it coming.
after Gary Player made history as the first overseas player to win at Augusta, his humble compatriot triumphed over an eclectic mix of romantic chancers, rising stars and Tiger Woods - on a remarkable afternoon of tournament golf.
Schwartzel is not the most glamorous of champions, nor is he a champion many of us will have wished for - but the cruel fate suffered by Rory McIlroy on Sunday should attest to the enormous mental strength that underpinned his victory.
collapse was hard to bear. The 21-year-old had spent three days convincing us
he was the natural heir to Tiger Woods's throne. But on a cruel afternoon at Augusta, he looked anything but.
To magnify the comparison,
Woods was setting alight to the course like it was 2000 all over again. He got
himself to 10 under, and for a while looked like he might run away with it. Ultimately he came up three short, but it was a Woods-affirming afternoon that hinted at a second coming.
With Tiger in the clubhouse,
attentions turned to Australian Adam Scott - who appeared
on the verge of golfing redemption. His story
lacked the magic of McIlroy, and the star power of Woods. But it had the human
element covered, not to mention the "Australian doing what Greg Norman couldn't,"
But by the
time Scott missed his birdie putt at 18, Schwartzel had already made his move. And
another script had been resigned to the patron's waste baskets.
Instead, the man who shares a Florida home with Open winner Louis Oosthuizen, made it two Majors in the same house - and continued the South African connection at Augusta that saw first Player (three times), and then Trevor Immelman don the green jacket.
The Masters has an unexpected, but wholly worthy champion. And the tournament's reputation can only have been enhanced by the drama and unpredictability of an unforgettable final day.
- Will Tidey