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Charl in Charg

History will remember the 75th Masters as one of the most dramatic and compelling of all time.  There were no iconic moments like Jack winning at 46 in ’86 or Tiger’s win for the ages in 1997.  No, the 2011 Masters validated the old adage that the tournament doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday.

Tiger's valiant effort for a fifth green jacket was thwarted when he missed a short eagle putt on the par 5 15th hole. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

When the leaders made the turn there were no fewer than ten guys that had a real chance to walk away with the green jacket.  When nobody was making a move in the early going, Tiger Woods went out in five under par 31.  Tiger was staring down approaches and finally sinking putts.  Amidst the buzz of Tiger’s charge, Charl Schwartzel was quietly three under after his first three holes.  Surely the golfers would crumble at the sight of Tiger charging up the leaderboard.  No, not these guys!

Fifty-four hole leader Rory McIlroy imploded on the back nine, but it had nothing to do with Tiger.  On the tenth hole the twenty one year old wildly hooked his drive into a tree.  The ball ended up between two cabins some 150 yards off the tee.  He compounded his mistakes and had to pencil in a head scratching 7 on the tenth hole.  McIlroy was rattled and went on to shoot 80.

As Tiger was starting to level off on the the back nine a host of golfers surged into contention.  Adam Scott, Jason Day and Geoff Ogilvy led the Aussie invasion.  Luke Donald and K.J. Choi were hanging tough, and 2009 champion Angel Cabrera was trying to power his way to a second green jacket.  The leaderboard was so diverse that David Feherty joked the only continent not represented was Antarctica.

When Tiger was carving up the front nine like a local muni, no one paid much attention to the birdie, par, eagle start by Charl Schwartzel.  Who could have predicted it was a foreshadowing of things to come.  After a bogey on the fourth Schwartzel grinded out ten straight pars.  Of all the golfers in the hunt, the 26 year old South African had the least amount of pedigree and was the likeliest to fold, right?

Not only did Schwartzel not fold, he rode a red hot putter to four straight birdies and a two stroke victory over Aussies Adam Scott and Jason Day.  Schwartzel joins Gary Player and Trevor Immelman as the only South Africans to sport the green jacket.  It’s somewhat fitting that Schwartzel shares a house with another improbable major winner and countryman, Louis Oosthuizen.

Tiger has forever lost his cloak of invincibility.  There was a time when golfers were affected by the loud roars that signaled a Tiger on the prowl.  Tiger didn’t help his cause by cooling off on the back nine, but today’s golfers weather the storm and go about their business the way the previous generation couldn’t.

On one final note my pre-tournament pick Matt Kuchar finished in a tie for 27th at -1.  I can’t wait for the 76th edition of the greatest golf tournament on the planet!

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