South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel emerged from the pack to clinch his maiden Major title on an absorbing final day at the 75th Masters.
The 26-year-old fired a closing 66, including birdies on the last four holes, to reach 14 under and beat Australian duo Jason Day
(68) and Adam Scott (67) by two shots at Augusta.
American Tiger Woods (67), England’s Luke Donald (69) and another Australian, Geoff Ogilvy (67), tied for fourth at 10 under, with Argentina’s 2009 champion, Angel Cabrera (71), at nine under. Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, 21, who led for three rounds, collapsed on the back nine and carded a round of 80 to end four under.
Schwartzel became the third South African to win The Masters, on the 50th anniversary of Gary Player’s breakthrough win for a non-American at Augusta. Player also won in 1974 and 1978, while Trevor Immelman triumphed in 2008.
‘It was such an exciting day, with all the roars,’ said Schwartzel. ‘The atmosphere was just incredible.’
His victory meant that for the first time since 1994, none of the four Majors were held by an American. He joined countryman Louis Oosthuizen, who won the Open in July 2010, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell (US Open) and Germany’s Martin Kaymer (The PGA Championship).
Schwartzel, who was tie-30th on his debut the previous year, is a six-time winner on the European Tour and climbed to 11th in the World Ranking. The Johannesburg-born player started the final day tie-second with Cabrera on eight under, four strokes
off McIlroy’s overnight lead.
But he made an electric start to the fourth round, chipping in from off the green for a birdie at the 1st and holing his second from the fairway for an eagle at the 3rd hole to reach 11 under and share the lead with McIlroy, who bogeyed the 1st.
However, Schwartzel slipped back to 10 under at the 4th, where he remained until his birdie barrage on the back nine.
McIlroy slipped further back at the 5th but recouped the stroke at the 7th and still led by one from Schwartzel, Cabrera, KJ Choi and Woods after the 9th. But when McIlroy endured a nightmare spell of triple-bogey, bogey and double-bogey from the 10th, the tournament was left wide open.
At one stage it had looked like it was going to be Woods’ day. The former world No 1 began the final round seven shots behind, but four birdies in the first seven holes hinted at a potential charge up the leaderboard. When he then eagled the 8th hole to get to 10 under and post a front-nine score of 31, the momentum seemed to be behind him.
But he squandered birdie chances on the par-five 13th and par-three 16th when it looked like he was about to surge clear. He also had a good chance of an eagle on the 15th but could only make a birdie as he finished tied for fourth for the second straight year at Augusta.
‘I got off to a nice start there and posted 31,’ he said. ‘And then, on the back nine, I could have capitalised some more. I should have shot an easy three or four under on the back nine and I only posted even. I didn’t putt well and hit one loose iron at 13. But this entire weekend I hit it good, so that was a nice feeling. I had to be committed to my shots and I did that all week.’
Woods’ search for a 15th Major continued as he looked to chase Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.
274 – Charl Schwartzel (SA) 69 71 68 66
276 – Jason Day (Aus) 72 64 72 68, Adam Scott (Aus) 72 70 67 67
278 – Luke Donald (Eng) 72 68 69 69, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) 69 69 73 67, Tiger Woods (US) 71 66 74 67
279 – Angel Cabrera (Arg) 71 70 67 71
280 – KJ Choi (Kor) 67 70 71 72, Bo Van Pelt (US) 73 69 68 70
282 – Ryan Palmer (US) 71 72 69 70
283 – Edoardo Molinari (Ita) 74 70 69 70, Justin Rose (Eng) 73 71 71 68, Steve Stricker (US) 72 70 71 70, Lee Westwood (Eng) 72 67 74 70
284 – Fred Couples (US) 71 68 72 73, Ross Fisher (Eng) 69 71 71 73, Trevor Immelman (SA) 69 73 73 69, Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 65 69 70 80, Brandt Snedeker (US) 69 71 74 70