2005: Masters - Immelman pleased with ace, major finish

Trevor Immelman beat defending Masters champ Phil Mickelson by one shot – and at least 10 inches.

The latter would be the difference between the vertical leap of Mickelson after he dropped the winning putt at the 2004 Masters and that of Immelman this year after he aced the 16th hole Sunday.

“I should have been in the NBA,” Immelman joked.

That would have been a big loss for golf. The hole-in-one helped the 25-year-old South African tie for fifth place at Augusta National at 4-under-par 284. It was a result that served notice that Immelman, a three-time winner on the PGA European Tour, has what it takes to compete on the world’s biggest stage.

“I just think I’m young and inexperienced,” he said matter-of-factly after third-round play was suspended Saturday evening. At that point Immelman was 3 under for the tournament and tied for seventh with three holes remaining in his third round.

“I’ve got to pay my dues, and hopefully I’m talented enough to get in the hunt.”

Immelman was hanging around at 2 over par through 39 holes before he caught fire, making six birdies in eight holes.

A birdie-birdie-par finish the next morning gave Immelman a third-round 65, leaving him six shots behind leader Tiger Woods.

“I got off to a shaky little start,” said Immelman, referring to his failure in Round 4 to get up-and-down for par from behind the green at No. 1. “Then I made two great birdies (Nos. 5 and 6). I played the front nine really solidly, I thought.”

After his 1-under 35 on the front, however, Amen Corner took its revenge, with Immelman going bogey-par-double. And he was disappointed not to make birdie at No. 15.

“Thirteen was just a terrible wedge shot,” he said. “Fifteen was a terrible wedge shot. So I was a little down. I felt like I’d let a bunch of shots get away from me.”

Then came the ace, made with a 7-iron from 170 yards. “That shot was a dream come true,” Immelman said. “I think I jumped 10 feet off the ground.”

A bogey at the 17th cost him a share of third-place money, but it didn’t put a damper on Immelman’s spirits.

“The day was a great thrill,” he said. “I was very nervous. That’s why my game was so up and down today. My friends are going to razz me about some of my shots.”

Immelman, who won the 1998 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, was making his 10th start in a professional major, and his best previous finish had been a tie for 37th at last year’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

He’s a natural lefty who plays right-handed. His father, Johan, is commissioner of the Sunshine Tour in South Africa. Recently married, Immelman makes his home at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla., with an eye toward full-time status on the PGA Tour. He had missed the cut at his other two U.S. starts this year (the Ford Championship at Doral and the Bay Hill Invitational).

“This is a tremendous boost to my career,” said Immelman, who plans to make his next Tour start at the Byron Nelson Classic May 12-15. “To have proven that I can compete in a major, I will carry this forward.”

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