Sunday, April 10, 2011


  Charl Schwartzel birdied the final four holes and took the Masters as he separated himself from the crowd, fifty years to the day after his countryman Gary Player became the first South African to win the majors. It was an exceptional performance, made all the more impressive by the who he had to beat.

Schwartzel played exactly the kind of round he needed to win on this day: hot early (a birdie and an eagle the first three holes), steady midround (ten straight pars from 5 to 14) and a hammer-down finish with those four straight birdies. He closed at -14, two strokes ahead of the field.

And it was a crowded field indeed, with both veteran major winners and too-young-to-be-scared kids.

Tiger Woods seized a large share of the golf world's attention, but this time, at least, that attention was warranted. Woods shot an impressive 31 in the front nine to erase a seven-stroke deficit. Poor putting would eventually doom Woods; he missed too many short putts to put any real pressure on the players teeing off behind him. Like last year, Woods finished tied for fourth at -10, but it could have been, and may still one day be, much better.

But the heroics of Schwartzel and the charges of Woods, Geoff Ogilvy and others wouldn't have been necessary had 54-hole leader Rory McIlroy played Sunday the way he played Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Unfortunately, McIlroy completely melted down on the 10th hole, triple-bogeying the par 4 and effectively ending not just his chances but his sanity for the rest of the day.

Other players had a chance at the green jacket, but none came closer than Adam Scott, who carried a lead all the way up 18. It was there, that Scott heard the third of Schwartzel's four birdies drop, giving Schwartzel the outright lead. Scott couldn't convert the birdie attempt, but the onetime phenom-turned-cautionary tale may have discovered a second life in golf.

Jason Day, Scott's fellow Australian, also hung close enough to make a late charge, birdieing the last two holes and four of the last seven. And like Woods, Geoff Ogilvy came from seven strokes back to briefly grab a share of the lead. Angel Cabrera, Bo Van Pelt,  Luke Donald, KJ Choi each had a chance and each came so very close.

Schwartzel's late dominance meant this Masters was a couple strokes away from being a playoff. But Scwartzel was steady and the green jacket is his.

 In a change directed at scorecards and television viewers, golf revised one of its rules Thursday so that players who learn of a violation after they sign their cards can be penalized without being disqualified.
The Royal & Ancient and USGA announced the new interpretation an hour before the Masters. It is effective immediately.

The change stems from two incidents earlier this year on separate tours.

Padraig Harrington was disqualified after opening with a 65 in the Abu Dhabi Championship when a slow-motion replay on high-definition television revealed that his ball moved ever so slightly after he replaced his marker.

Harrington knew the rule, but did not realize it had moved. It should have been a two-shot penalty, but because it was discovered after the round, he was disqualified for signing an incorrect card.
Under the change, Harrington would have had two shots added to his score and could resume playing the tournament.

In the first PGA Tour event of the year in Hawaii, Camilo Villegas was disqualified for signing an incorrect card after a television viewer noticed he had tamped down a divot in an area where his chip was rolling back down a slope. In that case, Villegas still would be disqualified for not knowing the rule.

It is not a change in the actual Rules of Golf, rather a book of Decisions that allows officials various case studies. The new interpretation is of Decision 33-7/4.5, that essentially gives officials more latitude to determine if a player should be disqualified.

Even with the new interpretation, it makes clear that knowing the rules is up to the player.

 For the last three decades, there have been a few incidents in which TV viewers will see what they believe is an infraction. It can lead to penalties, but often the reporting of the violation comes after the player has signed his card.

“This is a logical and important step in our re-evaluation of the impact of high-definition video on the game,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “We collectively believe that this revised decision addresses many video-related issues never contemplated by the Rules of Golf.”

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