Immelman rallies after poor start
Trevor Immelman might have hoped for a triumphant return to Augusta National Golf Club a year after he had an opening-round 68 on the way to winning his green jacket.
Instead, the South African fought through a "disappointing" front nine and needed late birdies at 14, 15 and 16 to finish 1-under par.
Four bogeys through the first eight holes put Immelman in an early bind, but the rally on the back nine allowed him to salvage the round and turn it into his second-best opening day Masters round in seven tries. The rest of the field, however, produced a Masters record 38 subpar rounds for opening day, which put Immelman's 71 into an 11-way tie for 28th.
"I kind of lost my swing for four or five holes and was just trying to hang in there, so a disappointing front nine, really," he said. "But then I caught fire there on the back and made a few birdies in a row. So a nice way to finish; nice way to at least shoot under par and keep myself somewhat in it."
Though the conditions on the course were better than any at last year's tournament, when Immelman posted three rounds in the 60s to lead from start to finish, he said the pressure of defending got to him on a day when birdies were there for the taking.
"I think anyone is nervous kicking off any Masters Tournament," he said. "But being defending champion, I wanted to come out here and play well, and I've been working very hard in preparation for this."
The back-to-back-to-back birdies near the end of the round put him in a good enough mood to express his appreciation for the way the course played. Though wind did pick up later in the afternoon, it wasn't nearly as strong as the gusts that made this week's practice rounds almost unbearable.
"Conditions were ideal," he said. "I said to Adam (Scott) walking down one hole, 'If you were told you could play one round of golf for the rest of your life in perfect conditions, it would have been here,' And that was today. It was just absolutely perfect out there."
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or email@example.com.