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"You, too, Hot Rod," Flesch shot back.
Immelman had a quieter finish on Saturday. As he left the club, he retrieved a voice mail message from Player, whom he had first met when he was five years old. "It gave me goose bumps," Immelman said. "He told me that he believed in me and I need to believe in myself. And he told me I've got to keep my head a little quieter when I putt."
Lurking six shots back was Woods, but he headed straight to the practice green after his third-round 68, trying to jump-start a cold putting stroke before dark.
WOODS SAID he felt good about his stroke heading into the tournament, but for the third straight year it might have cost him a green jacket. In 2006 he said he wanted to snap his putter over his knee after coming up short to Mickelson. Last year his flat stick let him down in his pursuit of Zach Johnson. On Sunday, with a chance to apply pressure to Immelman, Woods kept missing putts to the left, including a lip-out of a short par putt at the par-3 4th. Woods described the feeling of dragging his blade through the hitting zone instead of releasing it freely. The result? He wasn't getting the proper overspin on his putts, especially on the short attempts. Still, Woods looked as though he would make a late charge when he buried a 70-foot bomb for birdie on number 11, causing the crowd in the clubhouse to stir anew. Butch Harmon, Woods's onetime teacher, walked over to a computer and studied the names on the leader board. "Before it's over, they're going to have to deal with him," Harmon said, and there was no doubt whom he was talking about.
Woods drove right into the trees on number 13, but despite a restricted backswing, he carved a shot off the pine needles, leaving himself a short iron into the par-5. He sent his ball past the pin and spun it back some five feet from the hole. A birdie seemed inevitable. Instead, Woods missed again, air-balling the cup left, and Immelman remained a comfortable five shots ahead.
With Woods's statement before the season that winning the Grand Slam was definitely within reason, it was not far-fetched to wonder if he already considered the 2008 campaign a washout. He insisted he did not. "You feel deflated because you lost, but the very next day you're fired up about the U.S. Open," Woods said two days before the Masters. "Are you frustrated that you lost? Of course. You don't ever want to lose. I don't understand how you can like losing. But once this tournament is over, you start refocusing and getting your game ready for the next major." That would be the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, where Woods has won six times as a pro.
Nevertheless, the arc of the golf season has changed, pivoting on Woods's errant putter and the steeliness of a 5'9", 170-pound golfer with his own warm feelings about Torrey Pines. It was there, in 1998, that Immelman won the U.S. Public Links championship, earning his first trip to the Masters.
"I've always dreamed about winning majors," Immelman says. "I'm definitely not going to sit back and go, 'O.K., I'm done,' if that's the answer you're looking for. I'm going to keep working hard and trying to make the most of what I've been given."
AT HOME and on the golf course in Somerset, Immelman was always tagging along with his older brother and his friends, asking questions and trying not to get left behind. Mark's message to him was clear: Keep up or you don't play with us. As Trevor made his way through Augusta's picturesque layout on Sunday, Mark said his mind turned to those moments the brothers shared. But first there was a title to win. After a shaky opening bogey, Immelman birdied the 5th hole, but he three-putted the 8th for bogey and had to drop a 20-foot putt from the fringe on number 11 to save par. Mike Weir, who has played on two Presidents Cup teams with Immelman, stood beneath the big oak tree outside the clubhouse, saying that the South African had the game to hold up in gusts of up to 25 miles per hour, and he was right.