A gentleman's gentleman

Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and their other Masters-winning friends seem to have something in common other than the color green.

Character.

We all know about Phil and Tiger -- two of the best golfers around, but also two of the most popular athletes in the world.

But watching Johnson, last year's surprise Masters winner, slipping the green jacket Sunday on Immelman -- and then hearing the South African's extraordinarily gracious comments to the crowd -- reminds you that these guys aren't just great golfers. They're also terrific people of great character.

Immelman congratulated Johnson on being an exemplary role model and champion. And he is. Johnson is a modest, spiritual young family man whose thoughts turned to Jesus Christ even during the final round last year, and who planted a memorable kiss on his 4-month-old son after winning.

Likewise, Immelman showed himself to be a gentleman's gentleman after donning the green jacket -- thanking not only his family for their many sacrifices, but everyone who did anything, large or small, to help pull off yet another masterful Masters. The groundskeepers, the Augusta National members, the volunteers. Everyone.

Immelman plays golf the way it's supposed to be played. Some have compared his swing to that of Ben Hogan's, regarded as among the best ever.

But just as importantly, Immelman conducts himself the way a gentleman should.

Being a gentleman is indicative of character. And good character seems to be a hallmark of Masters champions.

Yet, when it comes to trying to predict who will win which sporting events, character is hardly ever mentioned as a factor. We look at size and strength and quickness and past achievements and such. We talk in cliches about measuring the "intangibles" in sports, but even there we fail to take character into consideration.

This page remarked last year that Zach Johnson may have come "out of the blue" only because we weren't looking. The same may be true of Trevor Immelman. Few predicted he'd win this year, simply because he wasn't on the radar screen.

Well, radar has a nasty habit of not picking up character.

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