A sweet-swinging champ and (an injured) Tiger at the height of his powers highlight the 2008 Masters
This is the latest installment of our Masters Rewatch series, in which we watch and recap the last 23 final rounds of the Masters while we’re working from home due to the coronavirus. What better way to get your Masters fix while in quarantine than by firing up YouTube and remembering all the stuff you might have missed from past Sundays at Augusta National?
Beggars cannot be choosers. This is fact. There have been no live sports of any consequence in the United States for more than two weeks now, so I am in no position to complain about getting to watch any sporting event at all.
But man, this was a snoozefest of a Masters Sunday. Credit Trevor Immelman, who played largely mistake-free golf on a mistake-laden day to become a worthy champion. Still, the guy shot 75 and won by three. Besides a super half-hearted “charge” from Tiger Woods, who shot 72 to claw his way to a solo second finish, there wasn’t much to remember—so you’re forgiven if your memory of the 2008 Masters is foggy.
That’s where we come in. Here are the things that stood out on our rewatch.
1. The broadcast opens by showing the opening tee shots from the final pairing, Trevor Immelman and Brandt Snedeker. Then there’s a montage showing the contenders and talking about their fathers. The spotlight is quite clearly on Snedeker, the reigning PGA Tour rookie of the year who entered the final round two shots back.
What’s interesting about the Snedeker focus is the way they talk about him—like he’s the youngster who hasn’t been in this position before. How will he deal with the pressure? Will he be able to manage the nerves? I then googled him to find out he was … 27 years old. Of course, that’s still young, but that’s older than Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, etc. etc. etc. It’s amazing how the definition of “young” has changed, and it’s a result of the new generation of players who come out of college—and often only a couple years of college—ready to win immediately.
It calls to mind this remarkable stat, which Sean Martin of PGATour.com dug up: a total of four players age 22 or younger won on Tour between 1985-2000. Five players age 22 or younger have won on Tour since July.
2. We get our first taste of the Nike Sasquatch driver on the second tee, where Immelman rips a tight draw into the middle of the fairway. It was Nike’s Tour driver at the time, so Immelman and Tiger had it in the bag. And holy hell, that driver sounds awful. Like an empty beer bottle tapping an aluminum trash can.
3. Every time I watch one of these old Masters, there’s always at least one name that I legitimately don’t recognize on the leader board. This time, it was Brian Bateman. A quick Google showed that he spent eight years on Tour including a victory. That’s a nice career (more recently he’s done some TV work on Golf Channel), and I need to brush up on my mid 2000’s PGA Tour money lists. My bad, Brian.
4. Tiger hits a nifty bunker shot on the fourth hole, then has to use his sand wedge as a cane to pull himself out of the bunker. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that Woods would have arthroscopic knee surgery two days later, and that Woods actually tore the ACL in that same knee at the prior year’s British Open.
But the announcers had no idea. “He looks worn out by the effort he’s put in this week,” they say after the bunker shot. A few holes later, Kostis suggests that Tiger’s joyless countenance is indicative that he was “not handling the frustration as well as he has in the past.” Nope, Peter, that’s just pain.
5. All that being said, this was a peak Tiger-doesn’t-look-like-he’s-having-any-fun round. Surely, he was in significant pain. But consider this—Woods had won eight of his 10 starts prior to that Masters, including the 2007 PGA, including four in a row to start 2008. The only two he didn’t win resulted in a T-2 and a fifth. That’s arguably the best stretch of golf anyone has played, ever. Anything less than a victory, at that point, was a legitimate failure. I’m not sure he cracked a smile all day as he navigated a windy golf course on a bum knee.
6. One more Tiger thing: He delivers a Mount Rushmore stinger on the seventh tee (around the 1:03:45 mark in the broadcast for those interested). There was no Toptracer, but you can see the white ball piercing through the air against the green backdrop, and it’s just Hall of Fame stuff.
7. Well, maybe one more Tiger thing. Hard to overstate just how much more he’d accomplished than his competitors that day. On the eighth hole, CBS shows a graphic: Woods had 13 major victories. The rest of the top seven had 13 overall PGA Tour wins.
8. Here’s in honor of the rules changing, so that accidentally causing a ball to move on the green is no longer a one-stroke penalty. Paul Casey laid his putter down on the sixth, and because of the wind and the slippery greens, his ball moved. He was docked one stroke, and that’s just complete BS. “Dreadful,” was how Nick Faldo put it. Glad that’s no longer a thing.
9. Turns out that both players in the final pairing, Immelman and Snedeker, won the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. I miss the APL. The people’s U.S. Amateur. It was discontinued after 2014 and replaced the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, the winners of which get … nothing, really. So they eliminated a tournament that got you into the Masters for the Four-Ball. Hmm.
10. Augusta played really brutal for the second-straight year. The scoring average on Sunday was 74.67, and only four players broke par the entire day, and none came from the final eight pairings. Only 10 players finished under par for the week, just one year after one over was the winning total. The next four years were each won with double-digit under-par scores.
11. At the Masters, there always seem to 15-minute spurts that decide the tournament. In 2019, it was all those guys hitting it in the water on 12 while Tiger made par. In 2008, it happened with Immelman on 11, Steve Flesch on 12 and Tiger on 13.
Immelman was at 10 under and blocked his approach well right of the green, a full bailout away from the water short left. Flesch was at eight under, and he dumped his tee shot in the water to torpedo any chances he had. Tiger, at five under, was forced to lay up after blocking a 3-wood into the trees on 13—leading to an epic, Ohhh Tiger! Bite!—but spun back a wedge to about four feet. Immelman left his third on the fringe, giving him a downhill 20-footer for par. If Tiger makes his and Immelman misses, Immelman’s lead is cut to three and Tiger has all the momentum.
Instead, Tiger yanked his left—he missed a number of short putts on Sunday, which was extremely unlike him at the time—and Immelman canned his par save. He had a four-shot lead on the 12th tee. Ballgame.
12. We love Verne Lundquist, but he screwed up at 16. Immelman tugged his tee shot left, and Verne went on commentating as though it caught the bunker. Problem is, it flew into the water. Lundquist eventually realized his mistake, but thank goodness there was no Twitter at the time.
13. All-time saucey birdie from Tiger on 18 to finish alone in second. After holing his putt, he literally flicks his hand at the hole as to say, “Don’t go in now! Where was that all day?” He was disgusted with himself for only finishing second on a torn ACL. Pathetic performance, if you ask me.
14. Immelman hits a beautiful tee shot on 18, only to have it end up squarely in a bunker. As he stands over his approach shot, Faldo tells us that Gary Player said Immelman is the best ball-striker he’s seen since Ben Hogan. Since Ben Hogan! Better than Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, and Greg Norman and everyone else who played after 1965. Surely, some of that is hyperbole, with Player understandably pumped to have another young South African emerging as a star. But it’s also a testament to just how beautifully Immelman swung it in his prime, and just how brutal it is that injuries ravaged his career. He’s transitioned to a semi-playing, more-broadcasting schedule, and he only just turned 40 in December. He’s four years younger than Tiger.
15. Jim Nantz went with “Golf has a new major champion” upon Immelman sinking his final two-footer. A rather pedestrian finisher for a rather pedestrian day. Perfectly fitting. Nantz always nails it.
2008 Masters—Final Round Broadcast