His first win was the South African Open. Another big moment was the Nedbank Challenge, because that’s where South African kids could watch the world’s best players. The Masters Tournament is in a league of its own.
“The biggest tournament on earth,” said Immelman, who won his green jacket in 2008.
And the Hotel Fitness Championship?
“From a timing standpoint, from the situation I’m in right now, it’s absolutely huge for me,” Immelman said.
Immelman lost the better part of three years with a left wrist injury that required surgery. He lost his PGA Tour card – the same year his tour exemption from the Masters ran out – when he finished No. 143 in the FedEx Cup.
The win assures Immelman will be among the top 25 on the special money list to get his card, and now he wants more. The leading money-winner of the four tournaments is exempt into The Players Championship.
Most exciting of all is his health.
“That was the only positive I had taken from the year – I was injury-free,” he said. “I didn’t have to worry about anything. That’s something that really excites me. Because when you start withdrawing from tournaments, it becomes a habit. And that’s an awful situation to be in.”
SIGN OF THE TIMES: The tournament that kicked off the Ryder Cup points table used to attract a strong field on the European Tour, or at least the field was stronger than usual every other year. But at the Wales Open last week, the only player at Celtic Manor who played on the previous team was Francesco Molinari. He missed the cut.
The field featured recent Ryder Cup players Miguel Angel Jimenez and Darren Clarke. European captain Paul McGinley hit the opening shot to commemorate the occasion. He tied for eighth.
It’s a product of so many European players having PGA Tour membership and playing in America this time of the year during the FedEx Cup playoffs. Eight players from the winning 2012 team were at the TPC Boston for the Deutsche Bank Championship.
For years, the Omega European Masters used to be first event in the qualifying process. That tournament is this week, and even though the PGA Tour has no tournament, Omega is not expecting many top players. That’s why the title sponsor is looking for a new date away from the FedEx Cup.
“We’re now working very strongly with the European Tour to get the date changed,” Omega president Stephen Urquhart said.
The plan is to move to July for 2015, one week after the British Open.
Rory McIlroy has an endorsement deal with Omega, but he won’t be going to Switzerland during his off week, and Omega is fine with that.
“Rory told me he loves Crans-sur Sierre and he is an Omega ambassador,” Urquhart said. “But I can’t ask him to give up the potential of winning $10 million to come over for one week.”
STRICKER PLANS: Steve Stricker is going to the BMW Championship now that he’s on the Presidents Cup team. And if he plays well enough in Chicago to have a serious shot at the $10 million FedEx Cup, well, the elk in Colorado can breathe easier.
Stricker has planned all year to go bow hunting for elk with his friends, who already have pushed the trip back a few days so he could play the BMW Championship.
He said he received an email from a friend who is going on the trip that said, “Remember, you’re elk hunting.”
“But he knows if I’m up in there and have a chance to win or top-10 going into Atlanta, I’ll probably go into Atlanta,” Stricker said.