AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – They were together in the Butler Cabin, then on the putting green for the trophy presentation, both times Zach Johnson helping Trevor Immelman get his arms into a green jacket at the Masters.
They now belong to an exclusive club.
Not just because they have access to the upstairs locker room at Augusta National where only champions are allowed. Not just because they will break bread – or whatever Immelman puts on the menu – the Tuesday night before next year’s tournament. And not because Johnson and Immelman have an invitation for life to play in the Masters.
Both turned Tiger Woods into a runner-up.
It was only the fifth time in 45 majors that Woods was been awarded the silver medal, and the second straight year at Augusta.
“What does it take? Part of that was just ignorance,” Johnson said.
He was more worried about a brutally hard golf course than any name on the leaderboard, even if one of those names was Woods. Johnson heard the ground-rattling roar from the 13th and knew Woods had made eagle, but he never looked at a leaderboard until he stood on the 16th tee. Then, he made birdie from 12 feet and hung on for a two-shot victory.
“I just play my game and hopefully make some putts,” he said.
That kind of thinking also worked for Immelman.
Even though Woods started the final round six shots behind, Immelman knew the world's No. 1 player would be around at the end. The South African looked shaky on the 11th, when he faced a slippery 20-footer for par, and on the 12th, when a tee shot into the pine straw behind the green required two chips to reach the green.
Both times he sank clutch putts – one for par, one for bogey.
“Obviously, it's just so damn difficult,” Immelman said. “I knew he was going to play well. The guy is probably going to end up being the greatest golfer of all time, so I knew he was going to make a run. And I was just trying to be strong. I was just trying to play my own game, and I was hoping that it was going to be good enough.”
Could Immelman win the Grand Slam?
“No,” he said. “Probably not.”
Woods is the only serious candidate for that, and he felt good enough about his game this year that he suggested a Grand Slam was “easily within reason.”
Reminded that he was the one who stirred the pot, Woods smiled and said, “I learned my lesson there with the press. I'm not going to say anything.”
Thanks to Immelman, he'll have to wait another year to do anything about it.
Photo by David J. Phillip/ AP Photo. Tiger Woods tees off on the eighth hole during the final round of the 2008 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 13.