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King Charl fights off an Aussie charge to reign at the Masters

By Peter Bills

South African Charl Schwartzel became the first international to win the Masters since his compatriot Gary Player grabbed the headlines in 1961.

Schwartzel fought off a strong Aussie challenge as Jason Day and Adam Scott both finished two shots behind on 12 under.

Another Aussie, Geoff Ogilvy finished joint fourth with a resurgent Tiger Woods and Luke Donald on 10 under.

It was Schwartzel who grasped the famous green jacket with a stunning four-birdie finish but there was only genuine heartbreak for Holywood’s Rory McIlroy who lead by four shots going into the final round but his Masters dream ended in cruel fashion.

McIlroy’s worst nightmare unfolded when he ran up a triple bogey seven at the 10th when still ahead and collapsed off the leaderboard, finishing four under — eight over for the final round.

While McIlroy suffered an extraordinary meltdown, Woods had his own answer to those who claims he was past his best.

He’s no “ordinary golfer” as McIlroy once suggested.

Tiger’s critics got the mother and father of all awakenings on Augusta National’s front 9 yesterday.

As a hot sun baked the course, Woods raised the mercury of his own accord with a sensational burst of scoring.

Only Woods could take on board the hammering pressures of the final round at Augusta and play the first eight holes in 5 under par.

It was a stunning riposte to those who had pronounced the King dead or, at least, badly ailing. And what is more, those about to pen the story line that the King is dead, long live the King, aka McIllroy, were also having their little script ruined by the Northern Irishman himself.

As Woods rose, phoenix-like, McIllroy gave the impression of a man standing in a vast lake of jelly down the first nine holes.

How else to explain such an alarming case of the wobbles with the great triumph simply laying there at his feet?

On the 10th, McIlroy’s drive flew so far off beam that it must have imperilled the residents of one of the gorgeous, white weather boarded houses that enhance this course.

Woods wasn’t entirely infallible, inexplicably missing a short putt on 12, as the pack gathered behind him. But you could forgive him that — the man had been absolutely superlative down the first nine.

He had birdies on 2,3, 6 and 7 before the most sumptuous dish of the day was served. Whatever the eventual outcome, this had been an object lesson to his critics.

‘Don’t mess with me’, it said. ‘Life and desire remain’.

By awful contrast, McIlroy’s self belief was visibly draining away.

The way he imploded was reminiscent of Greg Norman’s awful collapse in 1996 when he blew a 6-shot Saturday night lead to shoot 78 and lose by five to Nick Faldo.

McIlroy’s sad demise yesterday was horribly similar.

And as if to make the point, perfectly eloquently but with brutal timing, Woods then drilled his approach shot at the par four 14th over the water and to within four feet of the pin, to set up another birdie chance. Amazingly, he missed it, a glorious opportunity lost.

Yet he atoned at 15 with birdie, setting up a dramatic 5-way tie at the top of the leader board on 10 under.

If ever a man was flying, mocking his critics with almost every blow, it was Woods at Augusta yesterday.

Belfast Telegraph

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