When Louis Oosthuizen captured the Open Championship last summer, the sense was that he had preempted his friend and countryman Schwartzel, the player many had tabbed as the true next great South African star. Little did we know that Schwartzel would be so quick to snag a major of his own. A day that began with two chip-ins and ended with four straight birdies will give Schwartzel the distinction of authoring one of the greatest finishing charges in Masters history. Few people saw him coming. But they're not likely to let him out of their sight again.
Between Jason Day, Geoff Ogilvy and especially Adam Scott, it looked as if a nation with such a proud golf history would finally have a Masters champion. Instead, on the 15-year anniversary of Greg Norman's disappointing loss at Augusta National, Australia saw another Masters snatched from not just one of its players, but three.
Birdie: Photographers everywhere
Sure, Scott has always been one of the most photogenic players on tour. But the last thing we needed was the guy and his long putter on the front page of sports sections the world over.
Bogey: Rory McIlroy
With a four-shot lead heading into the final round, McIlroy seemed prepared to usher in a new era in golf. Instead, he stumbled into a nightmare. The bogey on 1. The triple on 10. The hockey game double-bogey on No. 12. McIlroy appeared so calm and composed the first three days, one almost forgot he's still only 21. Then came Sunday's 80, and he looked like a kid who just wanted to disappear.
Birdie: Rory McIlroy
He might not have ended up with a green jacket, but McIlroy, much like Norman before him, won the affection of millions who saw his dream unravel on Sunday afternoon. That was already apparent when McIlroy walked off the 18th hole to a hearty ovation, and judging by the class he showed in his post-round remarks, you can guarantee he'll receive even more applause the next time he tees it up. Bottom line: it's easy to be accomodating when you just shot 65. It's speaks volumes about a player when he's the same way after an 80.
Birdie: Augusta National
Remember those cries a few years ago that the Masters had lost much of its buzz, all thanks to a golf course that had been made too difficult? You weren't hearing any complaints on Sunday, when pins were set up in accessible-enough spots to ensure an afternoon of roars throughout the golf course, and eight different players had a share of the lead. Maybe the green jackets didn't like seeing so many red numbers. Perhaps they'll feel differently once they see the TV ratings from Sunday.
Bogey: The U.S. Open
Not every major can match the excitement of the Masters. Strike that. NO other major can match the excitement of the Masters. And that especially applies to the grind-out, just-try-to-hit-the-fairway national championship that is up next at Congressional outside Washington D.C. We love the Open for what it is, but it's hard to imagine it not being a letdown after the thrill ride of this week.
Birdie: Tiger Woods
This was the most compelling argument yet that Woods will still be someone to be heard from, with a ball-striking display on Sunday that was in many ways reminiscent of his best golf. He might have made some missteps late. But a day after he seemed to cost himself the tournament with a third-round 74, Woods willed himself back into contention with his front-nine 31, and gave golf a needed jolt in the process.
Bogey: Tiger Woods
Good as he was in spots on Sunday, Woods' putter went cold at the most inopportune moments on the back nine, particularly when he missed short putts on 12 and 15. And then there was Woods' TV interview following his round. We get it: the guy hates to lose. But so do a lot of other players. And they're able to handle similar disappointment with plenty more grace.
Birdie: Young guys
It's one thing to see golf's younger set show flashes of promise at Doral and Abu Dhabi. It's quite another to see it on the game's biggest stages. That was the case on Sunday at Augusta, with everyone from the 26-year-old Schwartzel to the 23-year-old Jason Day, to even the 30-year-old Adam Scott pull off big shots when it mattered.
Bogey: Old guys
So much talk about how experience counts at the Masters, and yet it doesn't do much good if the putter goes cold. So it did for the likes of Angel Cabrera, K.J. Choi, and even Tiger Woods, all players who found themselves back in contention at Augusta, and yet all of whom looked twitchy over the putts they needed to make most.