2008 PGA Tour Award Series: Shock Of The Year

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2008

Shock Of The Year: Trevor Immelman Winning The Masters



Obviously we were all utterly shocked when Tiger Woods announced that he would be having season-ending knee surgery back in July.  But, I’ve talked enough about Tiger in this series of articles and would like to explore another shocking moment from the 2008 season. 


Few non-fanatical golf fans had heard much about Trevor Immelman before the 2008 Masters.


Immelman began the 2008 season by missing his first three cuts (discounting the Accenture Matchplay Championship where there is no cut).  He then finished in a tie for 65th at the PODS Championship, 48th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, 40that the WGC CA-Championship and missed the cut at the Shell Houston Open.


At this point Immelman would have been concerned about just keeping his tour card. 


So what happened next? 


Immelman became the first player since Seve Ballesteros to lead the Masters from wire to wire and win this prestigious event.


Seeing Trevor Immelamn’s name at the top of the Master’s leaderboard at all was shocking in itself; seeing his name still on the top of the leaderboard after 72 holes was a true head-scratching moment.


Immelman, 28 years old of South African, held off the likes of Woods, Cink, Mickelson and Harrington to win the Masters by a margin of three strokes. 


As strong winds swirled around Augusta National during the final round, Immelman’s 75 on Sunday was by no means spectacular.  But, under the circumstances, a 75 was a solid enough to protect his lead over the field.


Immediately following the Masters Immelman found himself on a whirlwind media tour which involved photo shoots, a slew of advertising opportunities, an appearance on the Letterman Show and many other media engagements that took up much of his time.


In essence, Immelman had the skill to win the Masters but he was not at all prepared for all of the off-the-course demands that come along with winning a major championship.


After the Masters, as seems to be the case anytime any young player wins an event these days, the rumblings began to circulate about whether or not Immelman could be a legitimate competitor to Woods and whether or not Immelman would be golf’s next rising star.  I even heard one commentator go as far as to compare Immelman to Ben Hogan, albeit this was due more to Immelman’s likeness to Hogan in terms of his physical size and fundamentally perfect golf swing and not his ruthless competitiveness or ability to win 64 PGA Tour events and 9 majors.


Many were shocked at the way Immelman simply disappeared after his victory at Augusta.  But if you look at his stats in more detail, the shock Immelman provided was not his so-called disintegrated after the Masters, but the fact that he won the Masters in the first place. 


Believe it or not, Immelman’s record actually improved somewhat after the Masters.


Before the Masters, Immelman had missed the cut in nearly 60% of tournaments he entered and hadn’t finish better than a tie for 40th


After his win at Augusta, Immelman proceeded to miss his next two cuts in a row but then finished in a tie for 30th at the Memorial and a tie for 2nd at the Stanford St. Jude Championship where he lost to Justin Leonard in a 3-way playoff. 


Throughout the rest of the season, Immelman missed only two more cuts and had a 19th place finish at the British Open, a 13th place finish at the BMW Championship and a 10th place finish at the Tour Championship. 


Over the past decade or so we have been spoiled by the astounding consistency shown by players such as Woods and Mickelson.  So, whenever a new up-and-comer bursts onto the scene, as Immelman did at Augusta, we immediately expect him to consistently play at a very high level as we have become accustomed to when watching the world’s top players.


The fact of the matter is that the likes of Woods and Mickelson are a very rare breed of player that comes along once in a generation.  99.9% of players do not play with the same level of consistency seen from Woods and Mickelson. 


Immelman’s record actually improved after Augusta, but based on our absurdly high expectations for him, he was considered a failure for the rest of the 2008 season. 


Immelman is only 28 years old and has one of the most fundamentally sound swings seen on the tour in some time, so he will undoubtedly be successful in the coming years. 


Will he be a challenger to Woods or the next Ben Hogan? 


It is very, very doubtful. 


We must remember that there is such parity amongst most of the PGA Tour that on any given week if a player gets hot he has the ability to win.  That does not mean that because a player won a big time tournament that he will immediately turn into the next coming of Bobby Jones, it simply means that he got extremely hot for four days. 


Hence is the shock that Trevor Immelman came out of nowhere to win a tournament as prestigious as the Masters back in April after an extremely dismal start to his 2008 season.