South Africans runners up again at Augusta
Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini both held the lead during a wild final round at the U.S. Masters on Sunday but South Africa eventually had to settle for runners-up honours yet again.
Five-times in the last eight years, including the last two, South Africans have accepted the second place cheque at Augusta, leaving three-times winner Gary Player as the only golfer from that country to don the green jacket.
With Player making his record-equalling 50th appearance in the tournament, his younger compatriots launched a determined assault on the first major of the year.
But despite a stirring charge from Goosen and spectacular shot-making by Sabbatini, the two South Africans and world number one Tiger Woods fell two shots short of champion Zach Johnson after closing with identical three-under 69s.
"Obviously Gary's not the only one who can get it done," Sabbatini told reporters. "I don't know what it is.
"There is a great junior programme down in South Africa and there just always seems to be those waves of golfers that come through.
"Tim (Clark) and I came through and now you seem to get Charl Schwartzel and Trevor Immelman and some of the younger South Africans coming through.
"It's just a great tradition of golfers there and hopefully something we can continue to develop over the years."
South Africans are also developing a tradition of finishing second at Augusta.
Last year it was Clark taking runners-up spot behind Phil Mickelson, while Ernie Els finished second on the leaderboard in 2000 and 2004.
Goosen has won two U.S. Open titles and now has a pair of Masters runner-ups spots in 2007 and 2002.
Sabbatini briefly snatched the outright lead on Sunday with an astonishing long-range eagle putt at the eighth that broke 20 feet and 90 degrees to the left.
Some 65-feet from the cup, the South African putted toward the fringe and talked to his ball as it rolled slowly toward the hole.
As it dropped, he threw his arms skyward sending the grandstand into a frenzy.
"I practised that putt a lot on Monday to get a sense of how it fed down toward the green so I had a good idea of where I needed to put it in order to control the speed on the green," said Sabbatini, who in four previous visits to Augusta made the cut only once, finishing in a tie for 36th.
"One of my goals the past year has been to improve on my performance in the majors," he said.
Iceman Goosen, who qualified for the weekend right on the cut line, turned in a steady performance, quietly moving into contention with sub par rounds of 70 and 69.
The experienced South African raced to the turn in four-under-par 32 at a fast-running Augusta National and moved one stroke clear at two over.
"Overall I'm happy giving myself a chance again but I would like to one year maybe go a little bit further," Goosen said.