‘Written off’ Trevor Immelman has earned nearly $7-million on the European Tour but is eyeing a few more strong finishes before the end of the year.
Trevor Immelman. Followers of golf in South Africa know that name pretty well. He’s the guy that won two South African Opens, in 2003 and 2004. Then – to fulfil a life-long dream and ambition for him – he captured the Nedbank Golf Challenge in 2007, followed by the cherry on the top of a wonderful career up to that point, the Masters in 2008 with a coveted Green Jacket thrown in to keep in his cupboard. He was riding high, ranked inside the top 20 in the world, and considered to be one of the game’s big stars.
Then his golf took a dramatic downhill spiral, largely due to a serious wrist injury – you can’t play golf with a dodgy wrist – as well as complications from a potentially life-threatening tumour on his diaphragm, resulting in several surgeries. As a consequence not too long ago he had dropped to a lowly 1380 in the world rankings, although he was, and still is, carving out for himself a successful career as an insightful analyst on the game for the Golf Channel.
In four years on the European Tour between 2014 and 2017 he earned no more than about 50 000 euros, as he missed cut after cut. So his golf
career is over, right? Well, hang on a minute. In the last few months Immelman has hit remarkably good form on the European Tour, bringing
his earnings in 2018 on that tour to the equivalent of nearly R7-million. As a result he’s earned a spot in this week’s $7-million Turkish Airlines Open and there’s a chance he’ll be also teeing up in next week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City.
‘Game-wise, it’s like I’ve finally unravelled a knot that kept from playing like I did in the old days,’ a remarkably articulate, and fit and strong Immelman, now 38, said at the Regnum Carya Golf Resort on Turkey’s Mediterranean southern coastline where the Turkish Airlines Open starts Thursday.
‘I don’t exactly know why but I’m playing so much better all of a sudden. I’ve never stopped working hard and trying hard, though, and every time I’ve had a spare minute, I’ve been out practising. I’ve got so much appreciation for what it takes to succeed in this game, so to see my name on the leaderboard again has been so special, and it takes me back to the years when I was one of the world’s best players.’
Immelman’s name was certainly prominent on the leaderboard in this year Scottish Open at Gullane in July where he shot 68, 64, 68 and 65 for 265 to finish tie third behind fellow South African winner Brandon Stone who closed with an outrageously good 60 for a 260 aggregate.
Four rounds in the 60s doesn’t sound like a player out of form and Immelman has followed that up with encouraging showings in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and British Masters in the past few weeks. He takes heart from Tiger Woods’s re-emergence from obscurity, figuring if Tiger can do it, maybe he can too.
Immelman, incidentally, beat Woods by three to win that 2008 Masters and also outgunned the great Tiger down the great stretch to capture the Western Open on the PGA Tour.
The man from Somerset West also admires the current form man of world golf, Justin Rose (who, incidentally, he beat in the 2007 Nedbank Challenge), the defending champion this week. But Woods for Trevor has always been Mr Remarkable.
‘He’s able to hit shots that other great players simply can’t do. Guys like myself, Sergio, Adam Scott, Ernie and Vijay Singh got beat up by Tiger when he was at his best and now that he’s back we’d kind of like him to do it to the present generation, just to show them how we felt!’
Immelman has an old friend, Shane Koeries – one of the top loopers on the European Tour for over a decade – on the bag this week. ‘Shane is a member at Wellington and he caddied for me when I was a kid and won the SA Junior Champs at George. Now, hopefully we can again have a good week together in Turkey this week.’
Immelman is 79th in the Race to Dubai and a strong finish this week and, hopefully, next week at Sun City could see him crack the top 60 and earn a spot in the end-of-season $8-million DP World Tour Championship in Dubai from November 15-18.
Now wouldn’t that be something for someone, who like Tiger, the golf world had written off?
– By Grant Winter in Turkey