Lengthy finish is cause for concern

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Five hours.


When Trevor Immelman's tap-in putt hit the bottom of the cup on Sunday, it was 7:25 p.m. -- exactly five hours after the final group teed off and just 33 minutes before the sun disappeared below the horizon. If it had been necessary, they might have been able to squeeze in one playoff hole without requiring the eventual Masters Tournament champion to use night-vision goggles.

This is unacceptable on several counts. First, no matter how challenging the winds or how much is at stake, no twosome in the world should ever play a round of golf in five hours. Ridiculous.

Second, some sense needs to be used in deciding when the tournament is more important than the TV times. Start the final round an hour earlier, which would build in room for a potential playoff or a decent postgame wrap-up show. If the intent was to get better ratings for 60 Minutes , that didn't work. My DVR stopped recording it at 8 p.m. before the second of the three segments started. It's called 60 Minutes, people, not 105 Minutes.

With that rant over, here's a review of the winners and losers from the 72nd Masters:

BIRDIE: Trevor Immelman. The young South African showed the mettle to go wire-to-wire and never wilted under trying Sunday conditions. Very Imm-pressive.

BOGEY: Tiger Woods. He talked up the Slam but couldn't back it up when it counted with his putter. Poor putting is a disturbing trend for the de facto annual favorite at Augusta National Golf Club.

BIRDIE: Brandt Snedeker. The young Tennesseean should not be embarrassed by the tears that poured out after his emotional third-place finish. Don't think for a minute that this guy won't be back in that position again.

BOGEY: Fred Couples. The 1992 winner will have to settle for sharing the consecutive cut record of 23 with Gary Player -- at least for 12 more years, until Tiger passes them in 2020.

BIRDIE: Amen Corner. Fifty years after earning its immortal name, that little stretch of the course reasserted its will on the outcome. In the most defining moments of the day, Immelman drained a 15-footer to save par on 11 almost concurrently with Woods missing a short birdie on 13 and Steve Flesch rinsing a double on 12. Amen.

BOGEY: Fred Ridley. Weather has been the key component in both Masters Sundays for the new competition chairman, but I'm starting to wonder if he has the same touch for setting up the final-round shootouts that predecessor Will Nicholson had.

BIRDIE: Michael Thompson. Maybe he could have made birdie on 15 and made the cut and won the silver medal for low amateur. But Thompson will long be remembered as the amateur who called the penalty on himself that nobody else would have known about. At Bobby Jones' place, that's timeless.

BOGEY: Englishmen. Luke Donald raced to an early lead at 3-under Friday, then missed the cut. Justin Rose held his fourth overnight lead before disappearing. Paul Casey and Ian Poulter were weekend threats until spectacular Sunday demises. Nick Faldo weeps.

BIRDIE: Milton High School. All three Masters rookies from the same Florida Panhandle school -- Boo Weekley, Heath Slocum and Bubba Watson -- made the cut.

BOGEY: Locals. Vaughn Taylor, Charles Howell and Larry Mize all missed the cut, leaving noncompeting marker Jeff Knox as the only Augustan playing on the weekend.

BIRDIE: Gary Player. Not only did he set the record with his 51st Masters start and retain his share of the cut streak, but his long-held confidence in Immelman's potential proved prescient.

BIRDIE: Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam. The senior tour rookies and childhood rivals turned back the clock and made the cut, the first time in eight years for Woosnam.

BOGEY: Ernie Els. One month out it seemed the Big Easy was back with a PGA Tour win, and next thing you know he's switching swing coaches and fading from consideration. He did offer Immelman a classy pep talk.

BIRDIE: Steve Flesch. Believing he'd have to play exceptional just to make the cut, the 40-year-old journeyman stayed in the hunt until a back-nine fade. He may not ever get in that position again, but it was fun while it lasted.

BOGEY: Sergio Garcia. The Spaniard missed his third Masters cut in four years since tying for fourth in 2004 and getting snippy with the media for not paying enough attention to him. Next year we promise to notice.

BIRDIE: Masters Moon Pies. The best addition to the concessions since pimento cheese.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.



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