Augusta, Ga. | The Australians aren’t the only ones who feel pressure from the motherland to win the Masters.
The South Africans continue to finish tantalizingly close to victory here at Augusta National, and they are growing increasingly baffled over their failure.
Gary Player is the only South African to win the Masters; his third and last victory here came in 1978.
This year, South Africans Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini tied for second with Tiger Woods, two shots behind winner Zach Johnson. Englishman Justin Rose, who was born in South Africa, was another stroke back. Tim Clark played in Saturday’s final group.
“I thought we might get it done,” Sabbatini said. “Look at how close we have come in recent years. I don’t know how to explain it, but just wait – we’ll get it done.”
Goosen and Ernie Els have two runner-up finishes apiece, and South Africans have finished second in four of the last six Masters (including Clark in 2006).
This year, Sabbatini briefly led after he birdied the par-5 13th hole (that after holing an eagle putt on No. 8). Goosen was tied for the lead or leading through much of the day.
“You lose concentration for a second, you make a bogey,” Sabbatini said. “That’s what happened to me at 14 and 16.”
Goosen blamed his defeat on his putter. After four birdies and four pars in his first eight holes of the final round, he missed a 6-foot birdie attempt at No. 9 and later three-putted the 12th green. He didn’t make a birdie on the back nine.
“I hit the ball very well, but I couldn’t buy any putts coming in,” said Goosen, who switched from a new set of TaylorMade irons to an old TaylorMade set after Friday’s second round.
Goosen made the 36-hole cut on the number – 8 over – after consecutive 76s. On the 36th hole, his drive stuck in a tree and he had to return to the tee and play another ball.
He made par on the second ball for a closing double bogey, barely squirming into the weekend.
His closing 70-69 easily gave him the lowest total for the weekend. In fact, Sabbatini had the second best weekend total, and he was three strokes higher than Goosen.
Although the South Africans lost, they were happy for Johnson.
“Zach’s a great person,” Sabbatini said. “Obviously we run into him a lot because he also has an RV and so we always seem to be parking near each other.”
Added Goosen: “Zach is very solid, very straight, and he’s a very good putter. He makes putts, which is exactly what I needed to do today.”
And so the South African jinx continues.