By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- There's something about Augusta National that brings out the best in Trevor Immelman.
The man who won the 2008 Masters spent the better part of the next two seasons nursing an injury to his left wrist that required surgery in October of 2009. In each year, though, the South African posted his second-best finish of the season at Augusta National -- a tie for 20th in his title defense and joint 14th in 2010.
So it should come as no surprise to see Immelman on the leaderboard again after Thursday's first round of the 75th Masters. Immelman's 69 left him in a tie for seventh, four strokes off the lead held by Rory McIlroy and Alvaro Quiros.
Immelman got things off to a good start Thursday with a birdie on the first hole. But he gave that back with a bogey at No. 6 and was still even par when he made the turn after he followed a birdie at the eighth with another dropped shot at the ninth.
Everything changed, though, on the back nine as Immelman started to hit his stride. He eagled the 15th with a driver and 5-wood to 6 feet, then ended the round the way it started with a birdie at the difficult 18th.
"I started off a little bit shaky maybe is the right word," Immelman said. "(I) was kind of just missing my shots, wasn't really committing very well, but my short game, really, helped me on the front side.
"And then from about 10 onward I started feeling a little bit more comfortable and hitting some shots out of the middle, and then I made a great 3 on 15. And then I had three putts in a row inside 10 feet the last three holes.
"All in all very pleased with my round."
And as for the wrist injury? Immelman is finally feeling no pain -- literally, as well as figuratively -- and it's showing in his performance on the golf course.
Immelman has only missed one cut this year, and it came in his 2011 debut in Phoenix. Since then, the two-time PGA TOUR champ has cashed five straight paychecks and came to Augusta on the heels of his best finish of the season, a tie for 12th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
"My wrist is all the way back," Immelman said. "I would say this year, from about November, December last year, I didn't have to worry about it as much, and I could go ahead and start practicing stuff I wanted to practice. At that point it just became a matter of me getting in the right practice and trying to get rid of all the bad habits I got into playing injured.
"So that's been a process, and it's been pretty good on the range. And I've started taking it better to the golf course. You know, every week seems to be getting a little bit better, but I've still got a long way to go to get back to where I was."
Click here to view Immelman’s scorecard
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM Managing Editor
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Official World Golf Ranking is top-heavy with European players, but Rory Sabbatini thinks the South Africans will make some noise this week at Augusta National.
In fact, they already have, with Retief Goosen starting his round with an eagle on the par-4 first hole. Goosen is now 4 under through five holes and tied for the early lead with England’s Ross Fisher.
There are seven South Africans in the field this week -- Goosen, Sabbatini, Tim Clark, Ernie Els, Trevor Immelman, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel. Immelman, the 2008 Masters champ, is the last South African to win at Augusta National.
Fifty years ago, Gary Player won the first of his three Green Jackets. He and Immelman remain the country's only two Masters winners, although Els, Clark and Goosen each have produced second-place finishes since 2004.
Asked about his country's chances, Sabbatini replied: "Obviously I think it's strong as always. You got Ernie, Retief, Louis, Charl, obviously Tim's having trouble with his wrist, so he's a little unsure, but I think it's looking really good this year."
Oosthuizen ran away with the British Open last year at St. Andrews. Schwartzel won on the European Tour earlier this year and Sabbatini won The Honda Classic a month ago.
Those three seem to be the most in-form of the South Africans, but don’t forget about Els. In 17 previous Masters starts, Els has six top-10 finishes and has twice finished second. The last time was 2004; since then, however, he has missed three cuts and not been in contention the other two times. This year, he has struggled with his putting.
"I would say you have to favor especially the longer hitters, so I think that me, Ernie, and Charl are the three longer South Africans," Sabbatini said. "I definitely think Charl with his mental aspect of the game is phenomenal and I see Louis just has a good all-around game.
"And we'll all know Ernie's record here, so it would be nice to see him come through and get himself a Green Jacket."
Oosthuizen's win last year at St. Andrews gave a nice jolt to South African golf. Sabbatini would love to see the major momentum continue for his country.
"I definitely think it was fantastic for South African golf," he said. "... There's waves that have come through and Charl and Louis seem to be that next wave."
FOLLOW THE SOUTH AFRICANS
|TIM CLARK||Click for Masters scorecard|
|ERNIE ELS||Click for Masters scorecard|
|RETIEF GOOSEN||Click for Masters scorecard|
|TREVOR IMMELMAN||Click for Masters scorecard|
|LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN||Click for Masters scorecard|
|RORY SABBATINI||Click for Masters scorecard|
|CHARL SCHWARTZEL||Click for Masters scorecard|
Trevor Immelman holes out for eagle from 186 yards on the opening hole.
ORLANDO, Fla. – The Tavistock Cup, which since 2004 has been an interclub match between Isleworth’s and Lake Nona’s golf professional members, will have a different look this week.
For the first time, four clubs will compete for the Tavistock Cup, with 24 players involved in the competition. The first round of the two-day tournament at Isleworth Golf & Country Club begins in less than an hour (10:50 a.m. ET).
Monday’s format will consist of six matches of four-ball ( see schedule below). Tuesday’s competition will be singles matches.
Isleworth and Lake Nona will be two of the clubs in the competition, along with Albany and Queenwood. Albany is a new luxury resort community in The Bahamas and Queenwood is an exclusive private members’ club in the Surrey countryside near London.
Tiger Woods, fresh off his final-round 66 that bumped him up to 10th place at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship on Sunday, will compete for Team Albany. Reigning U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell leads Team Lake Nona ( team rosters below).
Tavistock Cup contestants play for prize money, team hole-in-one prizes and the title of World Golf And Country Club Champion.
The two-tournament will be broadcast live on the Golf Channel starting at Noon ET.
|TEAM ALBANY||TEAM ISLEWORTH||TEAM LAKE NONA||TEAM QUEENWOOD|
|Arjun Atwal||Robert Allenby||Ross Fisher||Thomas Bjorn|
|Ernie Els||Stuart Appleby||Retief Goosen||Darren Clarke|
|Trevor Immelman||Brian Davis||Peter Hanson||David Howell|
|Ian Poulter||J.B. Holmes||Graeme McDowell||Soren Kjeldsen|
|Justin Rose||Sean O’Hair||Henrik Stenson||Paul McGinley|
|Tiger Woods||Lee Janzen||Oliver Wilson||Adam Scott|
MONDAY’S FOUR-BALL MATCHES
|1||Arjun Atwal-Tiger Woods (Albany)||Thomas Bjorn-Adam Scott (Queenwood)|
|2||Robert Allenby-Stuart Appleby (Isleworth)||Peter Hanson-Henrik Stenson (Lake Nona)|
|3||Ian Poulter-Justin Rose (Albany)||Retief Goosen-Graeme McDowell (Lake Nona)|
|4||Brian Davis-J.B. Holmes (Isleworth)||Soren Kjeldsen-Paul McGinley (Queenwood)|
|5||Lee Janzen-Sean O’Hair (Isleworth)||Ross Fisher-Oliver Wilson (Lake Nona)|
|6||Ernie Els-Trevor Immelman (Albany)||Darren Clarke-David Howell (Queenwood)|
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Kevin Na has gained some ground on Fred Couples midway through the front nine in the third round of the Northern Trust Open.
The 27-year-old Na made three birdies in his first five holes to close the gap to one. He just missed the green at the par-3 sixth hole and made his first bogey, but Na has still pulled into a tie for second with Aaron Baddeley, John Senden and Trevor Immelman.
Na is looking for his first PGA TOUR victory after three runner-up finishes, most recently at last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. He two-putted the first hole from 34 feet for his first birdie, then made putts of 5 feet and 12 inches after a pinpoint approach at the fifth hole.
PACIFIC PALISADES – Everyone has teed off in the third round of the Northern Trust Open, and the par-5 first hole has proven generous. Every player in the last three groups – nine in all – made birdie there Saturday morning.
Fred Couples, who rolled in a 94-foot eagle putt on No. 1 in the second round, had a putt of 18 feet to get to 2 under right off the bat. He didn’t make it, but tapped in from 6 inches to maintain his two-stroke lead.
Spencer Levin, Aaron Baddeley, J.B. Holmes and John Senden kept pace and are 7 under. Kevin Na, Stewart Cink and Trevor Immelman are three strokes behind.
It’s been a long couple of injury-prone years for Trevor Immelman since he won the Masters. Now he’ll be lucky to land in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup -- he entered this week 154th and is off to a solid start at 2 under through 16 holes today.
“It's such an interesting sort of phase in my career right now,” Immelman said earlier this week. “The last couple of years has been a stop, start, not playing quite as much.”
Interesting could also be used to describe what happened last week at Whistling Straits. Immelman, always one of the game’s more astute players, couldn’t help but take note like the rest of us.
“As pros we know the rules that we need to know; the different types of water hazards, out of bounds, the unplayables,” he said. “We're also spoiled to where we have rules officials on hand, so if we are ever in doubt we just call one of them over.”
Dustin Johnson, of course did not ask the rules official on hand anything except to move the crowd out of his way for his second shot from the bunker on the 72nd hole.
“The rules of golf state you cannot ground your club in bunker or any hazard. So that's cut and dry. We know that,” Immelman continued. “Did Dustin break a rule of golf? Yes. But, and it's a huge ‘but,’ on how many occasions is a spectator or even hundreds of spectators allowed to stand right next to you in that hazard and to me? That was the problem that I had and you can point blame in many directions.”
That obviously won’t be a problem this week at neatly manicured Sedgefield.
”At the end of the day the onus is on the player and the caddy,” Immelman added. “I felt so bad for the guy because he's played such beautiful golf this year and obviously we know what happened at the U.S. Open and he bounced back and hung in there all day. Here he is, one shot coming down 18. That's a major defining moment to win a major championship.” -- Brian Wacker