Global game: Foreign golfers dominate at Masters

Global game: Foreign golfers dominate at Masters

April 12th, 2011 by David Uchiyama in Sports

Charl Schwartzel of South Africa reacts after a birdie putt on the 18th hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday. AP Photo by Chris O'Meara

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Patrons, golf fans on the course at Augusta National during the Masters, have little need for an interpreter.

They speak among themselves - about 40,000 of them spread in bunches elbow-to-elbow across 300 sacred acres - communicate in roars for eagles, cheers for birdies, claps for par and groans for bogeys.

They're the international sounds for what is now, more than ever, an international game.

South Africa native Charl Schwartzel sank the most timely birdies, with four in a row to close out his round, earn a green jacket and relegate 98 other golfers as non-winning participants in the 75th edition of the Masters.

"You've got to really try and force yourself to stay in the present, which is very difficult around here," Schwartzel said. "There's so many people, and so many roars go up.

"You've got to breathe."

Golfers from all across the globe are breathing new life into a game dominated during the last decade by Americans Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, who are still two of the most popular golfers around.

Yet Schwartzel won the Masters in 2011 after five guys were tied for the lead at one time and eight had at least a share of the top spot sometime Sunday at Augusta.

"What a great show, a tremendous show," said 1979 Masters champion Fuzzy Zoeller on the Golf Channel. "The big winner was golf - the game of golf. I don't care where these young men are from.

"The people want to see the best players in the world. They saw the best players in the world at their best at Augusta this past weekend."

Schwartzel win in Augusta signified that golfers born outside of the U.S. borders now own trophies from all four major championships.

Gram McDowell of Northern Ireland won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach last year. Louis Oosthuiezen won the British Open. Germany's Martin Kaymer won the PGA Championship. Now Schwartzel has a green jacket.

And Europe owns the Ryder Cup, too.

Mop-haired and freckled-face 21-year-old Rory McIlroy was in position to win the Masters when he began Sunday's final round with a four-shot lead.

His advantage evaporated with a triple-bogey on No. 10.

"He played wonderful the first three days, and he didn't miss a beat," said Jason Day. "It's unfortunate the way he played today, but you're going to see a lot out of Rory."

McIlroy may be one of a kind. But there are plenty of golfers who are almost just like him.

After all, a representative from every continent - from Korean K.J. Choi in Asia, to Schwartzel of South Africa, and with Argentina's Angel Cabrera - had a chance to win.

Jhonnatan Vegas, a native of Venzuela, was one of the others. The youngster, one of those hailed as an up-and-comer based on his big swing, bigger smile, success on the Nationwide Tour and win at the Bob Hope Classic, failed to make the cut.

He watched Sunday's dramatic action from the Augusta National clubhouse.

"It's unbelievable for me - especially a rookie - and I've been taking in everything from Augusta National, and I'll take it in for the next years," "It couldn't have been more exciting. With Tiger making that move then Charl putting that back nine together, it was incredible to watch."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.