Immelman wins Masters

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 14, 2008

The Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Trevor Immelman felt goose bumps as he listened to a phone message left by Gary Player, his childhood idol and the last South African to slip on a green jacket at the Masters.

Player told him to believe in himself, to be strong through the adversity that was sure to find him during the wind-whipped final round at Augusta National.

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‘‘I took that all to heart,’’ Immelman said after a three-shot victory. ‘‘And I’m sure he’s proud of me.’’

For more than just his golf.

Only four months ago, Immelman was in a hospital in South Africa as doctors prepared to remove a tumor from his diaphragm, learning only after the operation that it was benign. On Sunday, as he stood over a slippery 20-foot putt for par as Tiger Woods was trying to make a charge, Immelman passed his biggest test in golf.

Immelman came up clutch around Amen Corner, stretched his lead to as many as six shots, and held on for a 3-over 75 to become the first South African since Player in 1978 to wear the coveted green jacket.