AUGUSTA, Ga. - With eight players having held at least a share of the lead during Sunday's wacky final round of the Masters, keeping track of what was going on tended to be a little tricky, at least for Charl Schwartzel every time he looked at the leader board.
Every single hole you walk down, someone has done something, Schwartzel said, referring to the roars on Sunday that echoed through Augusta National Golf Club. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking at the leader board. But sometimes I would look at it and not register what I was looking at.
I think that sort of helped.
That, plus a rock-solid golf game and a calm disposition that belied his age (26) and his relative inexperience on the world stage carried Schwartzel to birdies on the four closing holes and a rather stunning 2-stroke victory in the 75th Masters.
On the 50th anniversary to the day when another South African, Gary Player, became the first international player to win the green jacket, Schwartzel, the son of a man who operates a chicken farm and taught him the game, fired a 6-under-par 66 - the best round of the day - for a 72-hole score of 14-under 274.
It was quite a feat for the 5-foot-11, 140-pound Schwartzel, who turned pro when he was 17 after taking part in a junior golf program sponsored by his countryman, three-time major champion Ernie Els. In his second Masters, he dealt with the heat both on the thermometer - the temperature approached 90 - and on the course.
Schwartzel began with two thunderbolts - a birdie chip-in at the first hole, and an eagle at the par-4 third when he holed out a sand wedge from 114 yards. Then he settled in with 11 straight pars before his spectacular finish.
Meanwhile, the leader board kept changing.
Twenty-one-year-old Rory McIlroy, who led by 4 shots entering Sunday, disintegrated during a three-hole stretch that he played in 6-over par and never recovered. Tiger Woods charged on the front nine, shooting 5 under, but could do no better than even par on the back.
So in addition to Schwartzel, McIlroy and Woods, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Geoff Ogilvy, Angel Cabrera and K.J. Choi held a share of the lead at one time or another. But after a while, Schwartzel felt it was time to make his move.
Par sometimes wasn't a bad score, he said. So I wasn't feeling at all disappointed with the 11 pars I made. I wasn't losing any ground but I wasn't gaining.
Obviously the guys are starting to make birdies and that was when I really needed to start digging deep to get a birdie out of it.