Trevor Immelman emotional about title defence
Having learned to cope with the pressure of being a Masters champion in the past year, Trevor Immelman must now deal with the emotions of returning to the site of his first major victory.
"In some sense I still don't think it has sunk in," the 29-year-old South African said Tuesday. "It's pretty emotional for me still to go on the course. I've been fortunate to have so many great memories come back to me this week."
Immelman captured his first major title last year at Augusta National, giving him a place in the champions locker room this year as well as the menu responsibilities for Tuesday's Champions dinner.
"It has been a surreal experience going in there and meeting some of the past champions," Immelman said. "I wanted the meal to have a South African flair as well as keep it simple so past champions would want to try it."
Immelman selected babotie, a mincemeat dish, with chicken skewers called sosaties, a spinach salad, milk tart for dessert and wines from vineyards near his Cape Town home.
After calling the dinner the highlight of his week, Immelman was asked if that would still be true even if he became the first back-to-back Masters winner since Tiger Woods in 2002. He didn't say yes or no.
"It's just so great for me. It's a honor for me to be in the presence of such great champions," Immelman said. "It's fantastic to be part of that."
Where emotions figure to catch up with Immelman, the first South African in 30 years and only the second ever to win the Masters, will be on the first tee. That's where he will be announced as the defending Masters champion.
"I'm going to be nervous and excited and anxious and everything all at the same time," Immelman said. "I've been announced as Masters champion a few times and every time it's goosebump stuff, just an absolutely incredible feeling.
"I'm sure that's going to happen again."
Imagine then having to tee off onto the formidable first hole at Augusta.
"The first few holes are going to be tough because I'm going to have to quiet my mind and settle down as fast as I can," Immelman said.
Adapting has been Immelman's big test for the past year as he slowly came to realize his Masters victory did not mean he would play his greatest rounds every week.
"I don't think I was prepared for what happened," Immelman said. "It's a lot of good stuff. There are a lot of great issues you have to deal with. It took me a little time. This has been an eye-opener. I learned a lot about myself.
"After I won last year my expectations got too great. I left this tournament thinking I had found the secret and I'm going to play like this every week. I expected that from myself and when I didn't I started putting too much pressure on myself.
"It took me some time to figure all that out and move on. It was only once the playoffs started (in August) that I really started to get rid of some of that mental baggage and start competing properly again."
Immelman withstood brisk winds in the final round and held off Woods for the victory a year ago, learning the hard way what it took to win a major.
"You've just got to be unflappable. You have got to be able to roll with the punches, believe in yourself when the chips are down and just hang in there," Immelman said.
"I don't know whether I knew I had what it takes or whether I hoped I had what it takes. I still haven't quite figured that out yet."
Immelman became the first South African to win the Masters since Gary Player won the last of his nine major titles in 1978.
"Hopefully that breaks the seal for the guys to know they can come here, compete well and have a chance to win," Immelman said.
South African near misses at Augusta have been many. Ernie Els was second at the 2000 and 2004 Masters. Retief Goosen was the runner-up in 2002 with Tim Clark second in 2006 and Rory Sabbatini sharing the spot the next year.
"They know what it takes. They have got what it takes," Immelman said. "It's the roll of the dice when you have that moment if you're going to take it and it goes your way."