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."