5 Things: The keys to Schwartzel’s Masters title

Charl Schwartzel of South Africa reacts after making a birdie putt on the 18th hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 10, 2011, in Augusta, Ga.

Charl Schwartzel of South Africa reacts after making a birdie putt on the 18th hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 10, 2011, in Augusta, Ga.

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Charl Schwartzel wasn’t a topic of conversation in many pre-round television shows that broke down who could win the Masters title on Sunday.

But his rock-solid round – one that saw him birdie his final four holes and claim the green jacket by two strokes – spoke to his understated ways.

He didn’t unleash a scream after his long chip-in for birdie on No. 2, nor did he chest-bump his caddie after an eagle on No. 3. He was as steady as they come, never falling below 10 under after the fourth hole.

And his victory was similar to that of his good buddy, Louis Oosthuizen, who jumped into the national spotlight with his victory at the 2010 British Open.

“That was a huge inspiration,” said Schwartzel, who shot in the 60s three of the four rounds, and under par each round. “To see Louis win The Open Championship the way he did, you know, we grew up together from a young age. We played every single team event, tournament against each other, and we represented South Africa for so long.

“So we know where our level of golf is, and just to see him do it made it, in my mind, realize that it is possible, and just sort of maybe take it over the barrier of thinking that a major is too big for someone to win.”

• • • 

1. THE STATS BEHIND THE WINNER

Schwartzel finished T-30 in his only Masters appearance, in 2010. That included a final-round 74 that took him out of contention.

Statistically, he actually took a step backward in driving distance and fairways hit, but his play on the greens set him apart. A look at the stats:

• Schwartzel was 44th in driving distance, at 278.38

• He was T-31 in fairways hit, with 37 of 56 (67.86%)

• He was T-18 in greens in regulation, with 49 of 72 (68.06%)

• He was second with 107 putts, a 1.49 average

• He three-putted only twice, and was 3-of-7 on sand saves

Despite plenty of nerves on the 18th tee, Schwartzel pounded his drive to the middle of the fairway, lofted his approach shot within birdie distance and buried the 20-foot putt.

“Whenever you’re standing on the 18th tee with a one‑shot lead coming up Augusta, it’s not easy,” said Schwartzel, laughing. “That little tunnel going through there gets very narrow. The whole week, I’ve hit 3‑wood to take the bunkers out of play, and I just felt that I needed to hit a driver. I’ve been hitting my driver well and I decided I’m just going to lash it. I hit it way up there. We only had 130 yards to the flag, which was an absolute perfect wedge for me, which also made it easier knowing that it’s just a stock, standard wedge. We hit thousands of wedges in our lives. You sort of think back on those, all of the good ones you’ve hit. So it was just a good wedge for me. I couldn’t hit it long. It was 150 yards to get it over the slope, so it was always going to come back down if I hit it too hard. It was just a good yardage for me. Felt good over it.”

• • •

2. RORY’S ROUGH DAY

Most people will remember Rory McIlroy’s Sunday as the day he shot 80 and lost the Masters.

Most won’t remember that he held the lead going into the back nine. Or that he finished T-15, his best finish at the Masters in three tries (T-20 in 2009; missed the cut in 2010).

Shooting 80 on the final day of a major is a glaring collapse, but McIlroy might want to look at some of the stats before calling the week a complete failure:

• He was second in driving distance, at 303.12 (a 20-yard improvement over 2010)

• He was T-15 in fairways hit, with 40 of 56 (71.43%)

• He was T-3 in greens in regulation, with 54 of 72 (75%, up from 55.6% in 2010)

• He had two three-putts all week, and was 2-of-4 on sand saves

McIlroy didn’t take much solace in moral victories after his round.

“I’m very disappointed,” he said. “You know, I was leading this golf tournament with nine holes to go, and I just unraveled. Hit a bad tee shot on 10, and then never, never really recovered. You know, it’s going to be hard to take for a few days, but I’ll get over it. I’m fine. A couple of pretty good friends were in a similar position to me last year in Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney.

“I knew it was going to be very tough for me out there today, and it was. I felt good that I hung in well for the first nine holes, and then, as I said, just sort of lost my speed on the greens, lost my line, lost everything for just two, three holes, 10, 11, 12, and couldn’t really recover after that.”

• • •

3. THE ROAR RETURNS

Tiger Woods made an improbable leap up the leaderboard on Sunday, moving from T-9 to the lead in a matter of two hours, blitzing the front nine with a 5-under 31. After McIlroy fell apart on No. 10, Tiger actually tied for the lead for about an hour and held the clubhouse lead until Adam Scott and Jason Day finished their rounds.

His catapult up the leaderboard was mainly due to the fact that he hit 75 percent of his greens in regulation for the week. The rest of his statistics weren’t as impressive:

• He was 15th in driving distance, at 287.75 yards

• He was 31st in fairways hit, at 37 of 56 (66.07%)

• Only one eagle for the week, coming Sunday on No. 8.

• He was T-32 with 120 putts over 72 holes, a 1.67 average.

Tiger shot his lowest rounds since 2008, with a 66 and 67 in the second and fourth rounds, respectively.

He preached patience all week, and didn’t deter from the plan.

“It’s just shot for shot,” said Woods. “This golf course baits you into doing that. You can get aggressive, you can lose it. Very similar to what I think what Rory’s doing out there. That can happen out here very easily, and it doesn’t take much. It’s just one shot here or there and it can go the other way. So I had to be committed to my spots and I did that all week.”

• • •

4. WHERE’S PHIL?

There were very few roars from the early galleries following defending champion Phil Mickelson, with Lefty firing a final-round 74 to bow out at 1 under (T-27). It was Mickelson’s worst finish at Augusta National since 1993, when he finished T-34 in only his second appearance.

“I struggled with the blade again today, and it was a frustrating week, really, putting,” said Mickelson. “I love these greens, I usually putt them very well, but I struggled this week.”

Mickelson is looking forward to a few days away from golf.

“I feel like my game has been coming around and I’m looking forward to getting back out and competing,” said Mickelson. “I’ll have a few weeks off and we have got a couple family trips here lined up these next couple of weeks and then get back at it for Charlotte (Quail Hollow) and The Players. And see if I can get some momentum too heading into the majors.”

• • •

5. THAT’S WHY THEY CALL IT AMEN CORNER

There is a reason why holes 11-12-13 are considered by many as the toughest in golf.

• This week, No. 11 (a 505-yard par 4) played as the toughest hole on the course, with a 4.331 average and only 19 birdies the entire week. There were 78 bogeys, 12 double bogeys and five that were triple bogey or worse.

• Hole No. 12 (a 155-yard par 3 over the water) wasn’t much easier, ranking as the third-toughest at 3.226, with 44 birdies, 59 bogeys, 17 double bogeys and six triple bogeys or worse.

• For most, No. 13 (a 510-yard par 5) came as the relief, ranking as the easiest hole on the course with 13 eagles and 137 birdies.

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