Schwartzel wins Masters thriller

Charl Schwartzel has won the 75th Masters after dramatic see-saw day when at least 14 players held the lead.

Charl Schwartzel has won the 75th Masters after dramatic see-saw day when at least 14 players held or shared the lead at one stage or another.

“It was such an exciting day with so many roars. Playing with K.J. (Choi); he plays the same sort of game as I do; we both go about our business and that sort of kept me calm,” said Schwartzel exactly 50 years after comptriot Gary Player (1961, 1974 and 1978) became the first non-American to win the Masters.

“I was getting tight coming down the 15th. Adam Scott was making birdies and I needed to do something.

“But I managed to hit really good iron shots and made some really good putts coming in.

“Walking up 18 was such a special feeling. I only had a one-shot lead, so you don’t want to get too excited about it. You’ve still got to win the golf tournament. But it just really felt good.

“I don’t think that I have ever done so much praying on a golf course in my life!”

Schwartzel is his country’s third Green Jacket winner after Trevor Immelman (2008) and his first Major victory followed good friend and compatriat Louis Oosthuizen’s triumph at the Open last year.

The 26-year-old Johannersburg born and bred Schwartzel blasted out of the blocks at the start of the day with a chip-and-run birdie at the first and a magnificent eagle at the par-4 3rd where he holed his approach shot.

And then, when the lead was being shared by half a dozen players, he emerged from the pack with Adam Scott and Jason day and blew the two away by birdying the last four holes to finish with a stunning 66 and a 14-under total that put him two clear of the Australians.

They in turn finished two shots clear of Tiger Woods, Geoff Ogilvy and England’s Luke Donald.

And Rory McIlroy, the leader of the first three rounds and strong pre-Sunday favourite?

Sadly. he imploded on the back nine with bogeys, double bogeys and even a triple bogey after starting his round with a bogey at the first hole, shooting a horrible 8-over 80 and finishing in a tie for 15th place at 4-under.

Schwartzel bogeyed the 4th to slow his massive early momentum just as Tiger Woods was sending the patrons wild with a vintage front nine 5-under 31 which yielded four birdies and an eagle at the eighth after a 278-yard fairway-wood to 10 feet.

But Woods’s putter stopped working after that and he was unable to sustain his charge over the back nine, and it was the Australian trio of Adam Scott, Jason Day and Geoff Ogilvy who all roared into contention with Schwartzel who had regained his composure and stayed with the front runners with a series of pars.

Angel Cabrera, KJ Choi and Luke Donald also maintained their challenges on a day when the lead changed more than a dozen times, but it was Schwartzel who conjured up the most magical finish.

The 26-year-old held his nerve superbly, reeling off 10 straight pars before finishing as explosively as he started, nailing nerveless birdie putts on each of the last four greens, the last from 20 feet, to soar to that winning 14-under.

Schwartzel’s late heroics eclipsed those of Scott, who made clutch pars saves on 15 and 17 while picking up birdies at 11, 14 and 16 as he closed with a creditable 67.

Scott was joined on 12 under by the impressive Day, who birdied the 12th and 13th before draining further putts at the last two holes to return a 68 and cap a memorable Augusta debut.

Donald was left to rue a misjudgement at the treacherous 12th, where he found the water off the tee and ran up an expensive double-bogey five.

He recovered to pick up four birdies over the closing six holes, capping a 69 with a superb chip-in for birdie at the last after his approach had hit the flagstick and rolled back off the green.

The Charl Schwartzel Factfile

1984: Born August 31 in Johannesburg
2002: After growing up on the family farm, Schwartzel first emerged when he played for his country at the Eisenhower Trophy in 2002.
At the age of 18 years and 81 days, he then became the third youngest player to secure a European Tour card, going through the qualifying school.
2005: Secured his first tournament victory at the Dunhill Championship, and took first place on the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit.
2006: With a victory at the season-ending Vodacom Tour Championship, Schwartzel broke into the world top 100 for the first time. Over the course of the following season, he would rise as high as 57th.
2007: An eagle at the 543-yard par five propelled him to victory at the Open de Espana in April, putting him in the world top 40 for the first time.
2008: Won the Madrid Masters, but then endured a winless 2009.
2010: Won back-to-back tournaments, the Africa Open and the Johannesburg Open, to move back into the world top 50.
2011: Janauary – Began the year by retaining his Johannesburg Open title before joining the PGA Tour for the first time.
April 10 – Finished with four birdies over the last four holes to win the Masters at Augusta by two shots, his first major victory.