x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Immelman completes his outside loop with Web.com golf win

South African breaks 'majors' curse with win to return to top-tier golf, writes Steve Elling.

It has been a long, bumpy journey for Trevor Immelman after the South African won the 2008 Masters.
It has been a long, bumpy journey for Trevor Immelman after the South African won the 2008 Masters.

A nice tale of redemption and affirmation surfaced over the weekend, starring a prominent player who had lost his way, yet won in the United States to reclaim a place in the table.

No, not Sweden's mercurial Henrik Stenson, who beat a stacked field in Boston to complete a stellar summer run, finally shaking off all vestiges of the second mystifying slump of his career.

The other morale-boosting victory took place on the second-tier Web.com Tour, where the 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman won to reclaim his US PGA Tour card.

Once considered the best player from a cadre of talented South Africans, Immelman suffered a hand injury that required surgery and has laboured to reclaim his game since.

Gary Player once gushed that his compatriot had the best swing since Ben Hogan, and that once might have been true.

Yet Immelman had not registered another win until Sunday, at an event that kicked off the revamped US qualifying process. He at least has a place in the big leagues for 2013/14.

"It's been a long, frustrating road," said Immelman, who finished 143rd in FedEx Cup points this year to lose his card. "I'm not going to lie. I've been wondering if I'd be able to get back to playing the way I know I can play."

His five-year exemption for winning the Masters passed in a heartbeat, yet the notion that a major champion could experience a drought is no longer surprising.

Immelman's case is extreme because of the wrist issues, but a growing group of players have not exactly used major victories as springboards to stardom. Starting in 2001, 15 players who won majors have yet to win again on their primary tours.

Winning a major as a swansong of sorts? It is not so much a curse as it is a curiosity. David Duval in 2001 started a stretch of five years of players who claimed majors, only to be blanked in stroke-play events thereafter. Remember Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel, Todd Hamilton and Michael Campbell? Perhaps not.

After Immelman came YE Yang and Stewart Cink in 2009, both winless on the PGA Tour since. They were followed by Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Darren Clarke, slam winners in 2010/11, although US tour members Schwartzel and Oosthuizen have won on the European or lesser tours.

Immelman, 33, is the latest to punctuate the fact that while winning a major means a pile of endorsement cash, it is not a guarantor of future earnings on green grass.

"There's no doubt this is huge for me," Immelman said.

Plenty of recent major winners would not argue the point.


twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE and @ellingyelling