Immelman wins Nedbank Challange
BY iseekgolf.com | Southern Africa Tour | 2007 Nedbank Golf Challenge | Round Four | 03 Dec 2007
Trevor Immelman survived a nervous closing run of three successive bogeys to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge by one stroke from an equally jittery Justin Rose at Sun City on Sunday.
Immelman chipped in twice to stand two strokes in front of a shaky Rose with just three holes to play but instead of slamming the door he proceeded to make three successive bogeys on the run-in to the 18th green to allow Rose to cling to a chance of victory.
Fortunately for the South African, in golf’s emulation of rugby’s World Cup Final, the Englishman’s touch also deserted him and he was eventually able to claim the US$1.2 million cheque, the biggest of his career, with a scrappy one-over five at the last to Rose’s double bogey six.
On a steamy day during which the Gary Player course restored its reputation as a forbidding test, three 71s being the only under par rounds, the chaotic finish was as dramatic as there has ever been.
The pins were tucked away while the sun finally made an appearance to bake the greens and in the end victory fell to a man who was not even in the field until Sergio Garcia pulled out with just days to go to tee-off.
Immelman and Rose started the final round at 16-under and when it was all over that’s exactly where he remained after a level-par 72 while Rose’s 73 resulted in the crucial losing margin.
Ernie Els had been five strokes behind and he was also unable to make any headway – a dropped shot 5 at the 8th and a three-putt 5 at the 9th, after he had hit the green in two, effectively turning the tournament into a match play duel between Immelman and Els.
Els hovered in the distance until the hook he had fought for 70 holes finally undid him at the 71st – pulling his approach to the 17th into the drink in the course of running up one of three double bogey sixes recorded on this pernicious hole during the final round – as he limped to a 72.
The 9th was also crucial in breaking Rose’s momentum. He had started par 4, birdie 5 to immediately jump two strokes clear of Immelman but when he committed a sloppy three-putt on the island green they were again level-pegging with Rose starting to look shaky.
There is an old axiom among the pros that those who putt for par, rather than birdies, will not go far and after his superb play during the first three rounds Rose was staying in the hunt with some exceptional scrambling.
But then he made a crucial error at the 13th as he badly hooked his approach shot into the tree left of the green. He drew a thick lie in the kikuyu, failed to find the putting surface with his third, and then did well to card no more than a dropped shot five as Immelman parred to go one ahead.
At the next, the par five 14th, Immelman chipped in for a birdie, just as he had at the 10th and also at his very first hole of the tournament, and when Rose missed his birdie putt the difference was two shots with four to play.
Both hit poor seconds after excellent drives at the 15th; Rose having to chip-and-putt to match Immelman’s par.
At the short 16th Immelman pulled his tee-shot into thick kikuyu but Rose, falling foul of the malady that would eventually cost him victory, hooked his shot into the left-hand bunker. Rose was long with his bunker shot, Immelman even shorter with his chip – Immelman missed, Rose holed and the difference was one with two to play.
But instead of keeping on the pressure with a fairway-finding 3-wood at the tricky 17th Rose snapped the ball left into the matted kikuyu; allowing Immelman to look for safety with a rescue club.
It was advantage Immelman as Rose hacked out and the South African went for the green; connecting the ball sweetly but watching it run to the fringe standing proud at the back. Rose hit a superb pitch from 89 metres (his caddie’s measurement) to set up a chance of saving par and Immelman, who was lucky to be able to move the ball away from a sprinkler head, again chipped weakly.
Immelman missed; Rose holed – all square going to the 18th and 72nd hole.
Rose still had the honour but also the hooks – pulling his ball into a spot on the left where one has seldom seen a competitor in the NGC.
Immelman was again able to take his hybrid and he hit a fine shot onto the fairway. Rose was forced to hack out; Immelman took his time (as he does!) and hit a strong second shot right over the flag but just into the scruffy grass over the green.
Again it was advantage Immelman; especially when Rose flew his 9-iron approach right into the grandstand and right under the chair of the man who signs the cheque at this tournament, Nedbank’s CEO Tom Boardman.
Unlike Els some moments earlier, who had also “airmailed” his second shot into the pavilion, Rose chose not to drop out into the drop-zone but in a spot near the stand and watched in horror as his ball popped out of the thick grass and rolled three meters passed the flag.
Rose lying four; Immelman about to hit his third. Game, set and match? Not on your life as Immelman fluffed his first chip to give Rose a glimmer of hope. Immelman put his next to inside a metre to guarantee a one-over five – leaving Rose with a tricky right-to-left breaker to force a tie.
But just as so many before him Rose did not take the putt wide enough and Immelman was able to knock his in to become the seventh Southern African winner after Mark McNulty, Fulton Allem, David Frost, Nick Price, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen in spite of, in his own words, having “choked worse than I ever have” on his way to the last green.
Immelman was not even two years old when the first “Million Dollar” was staged in 1981. His 28th birthday on December 16 should be that much sweeter with an extra $1.2 million dollars nestling in the bank.
1 Trevor Immelman – US$1,200,000
2 Justin Rose – $600,000
3 Ernie Els – $400,000
4 Henrik Stenson – $300,000
5 Rory Sabbatini – $275,000
T6 Luke Donald – $255,000
T6 Geoff Ogilvy – $255,000
8 Adam Scott – $240,000
9 Niclas Fasth – $230,000
10 Charl Schwartzel – $220,000
11 Stewart Cink – $210,000
12 Retief Goosen – $200,000
Source – Nedbank