Charl Schwartzel won golf’s Masters Tournament, closing with four birdies for a 6-under-par 66 during a final round in which seven players held at least a share of the lead.
Schwartzel, 26, finished 14-under par at the season’s first major championship, two shots better than Adam Scott and Jason Day of Australia. Tiger Woods made a run at his fifth Masters title yesterday at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, before finishing in a tie for fourth place.
Schwartzel is the third South African to win the Masters, joining Trevor Immelman and Gary Player. Schwartzel’s victory came 50 years to the day that Player, a three-time champion, became the first Masters winner from outside the U.S.
“It’s a dream for me, the highlight in my golfing career by a long way,” Schwartzel said at a news conference. “I always thought if there was one that I would win, it would be this one. This is the sort of golf course that suits my eye.”
Schwartzel receives $1.44 million for the win, the first of his career in the U.S. He has six European Tour victories.
Woods, who won the most recent of his four Masters titles in 2005, closed with a 5-under 67. He had four birdies and an eagle over the first eight holes and tied for the lead before finishing tied for fourth for the second straight year. Woods, formerly the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer, hasn’t won a tournament since November 2009, weeks before a car crash led to his acknowledgment of extramarital affairs that resulted in divorce.
Schwartzel, who tied for 30th last year in his Masters debut, started the final round four shots behind Rory McIlroy, who had an 8-over par 80 in the final round to finish 10 shots off the lead.
Schwartzel needed three holes to erase McIlroy’s lead, the largest 54-hole advantage since Woods’s record 12-shot win in 1997. Schwartzel chipped in for birdie from off the green on the first hole and holed out from 108 yards for an eagle on the par- 4 third hole to tie for the lead.
While McIlroy made a triple-bogey at the 10th hole to drop out of the lead, the leader board remained clogged. As many as 10 golfers were within two shots of the lead over the final nine holes.
“There’s so many roars that go on around Augusta,” Schwartzel said. “It echoes through those trees. Every single hole you walk down, someone has done something, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking at the leader board.”
Schwartzel, who grew up on a chicken farm in South Africa, started his run of birdies at the 15th and 16th holes. He then snapped a tie with Scott, who was vying to become the first Australian winner of the Masters, by sinking an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-4 17th hole. Schwartzel sealed his victory with a 15-foot birdie on the final hole.
Schwartzel was the second Masters winner in 21 years who didn’t play in the final pairing, following Zach Johnson in 2007.
McIlroy, who made three bogeys over the first three days of the tournament, added a bogey and a double-bogey after his triple-bogey at the 10th hole. McIlroy, a 21-year-old from Northern Ireland, was seeking to become the second-youngest Masters winner behind Woods, who in 1997 claimed his first title 3 1/2 months after his 21st birthday. McIlroy turns 22 next month.
Instead, McIlroy became the fourth player to blow a 54-hole lead of four shots or more at Augusta National. The others were Greg Norman (six shots in 1996), Ed Sneed (five in 1979) and Ken Venturi (four in 1956).
“I’m very disappointed right now, and I’m sure I will be for the next couple days, but I’ll get over it,” McIlroy said. “I’ll have plenty more chances. Hopefully it will build a little bit of character in me.”
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