Charl Schwartzel marked the 50th anniversary of Gary Player’s breakthrough first international win in the Masters with another South African victory at Augusta National.
South African fans had to stay up late to watch it.
It was 12.48am in Schwartzel’s hometown of Johannesburg when he made the last of his four straight birdies to finish off a two-stroke victory over Australians Jason Day and Adam Scott.
The Sunshine Tour quickly proclaimed “Schwartzel steamrollers opposition to win Masters” on its website.
Schwartzel won 50 years to the day after Player became the first non-American to wear the green jacket, and seven of the top 10 finishers were from outside the United States (US).
“I am absolutely delighted for Charl and South Africa. Congratulations and very well done to him. That is how you finish like a champion!” Player wrote on Twitter.
Trevor Immelman, the 2008 champion, also congratulated Schwartzel on Twitter.
“Really happy for Charl!!!” Immelman wrote.
“Going to be nice to have some South African food at the Champions Dinner again next year,” Immelman added, in reference to the tradition of the defending champion choosing the menu for the Masters champions’ dinner.
After waiting 25 years for a first international winner, foreigners have won three of the last four Masters titles. But it remains the only major never won by an Australian.
In Australia, it was Monday morning. From sun-drenched beaches to office workers glued to television sets in coffee shops, Australians felt a degree of collective pain when Scott and Day fell short.
Websites of major Australian newspapers were quick to report on yet another Masters opportunity lost.
“Schwartzel shatters Aussie Masters dream” reported national daily the Australian, while the Sydney Morning Herald said “Australia’s long history of heartache at Augusta National has continued.”
The Daily Telegraph in Sydney said “Australia has suffered its share of Masters heartbreak, but today will rank with one of the most agonising.
“Just as their mutual hero Greg Norman did three times previously, Adam Scott and Jason Day have been relegated to joint second place by another freaky back-nine performance.”
Peter Thomson, who won five British Opens and remains Australia’s most prolific major champion, said he got up early in Melbourne to watch the telecast.
“I’m thrilled about it,” Thomson told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. “Our younger generation is showing what they can do, particularly Day.
“I just wish one of them would win the British Open, that’s the real world championship,” he added, tongue in cheek.
Swimmers at Sunrise Beach north of Brisbane, Australia, had gathered at a surf lifesaving hut to watch the televised proceedings with the lifeguards, groaning their way back to the ocean when the South African won.
There was a special interest in this part of Australia — Scott grew up in Queensland state, living at times north and south of Brisbane. Day was born in Beaudesert, just south-west of the city.
Also vying for Australia’s first green jacket as Masters champion was 2006 US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy, who finished with 67 and was tied for fourth with Tiger Woods and England’s Luke Donald.
One interested observer Down Under was Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who won seven Grand Slam singles titles for Australia on the tennis court. Her husband, Roger Cawley, got up at 4.30am to watch most of the final round. Goolagong Cawley was up about an hour later.
Their son, Morgan, went to school with Scott and the two played doubles tennis together.
“We were pulling for Adam but anytime a guy shoots four birdies in a row to finish the Masters, he deserves to win,” Goolagong Cawley said. — Sapa-AP