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Sunday, 10 April 2011

Charl Schwartzel completed a historic clean sweep of Major Championships for European Tour Members as he won The Masters Tournament after a pulsating final round.

Exactly 50 years after Gary Player became the first overseas player to win at Augusta National, South African Schwartzel carded a six under par 66 to win by two from Australians Adam Scott and Jason Day.

The 26 year old grabbed his first Major title after yet another amazing day of high drama that saw Tiger Woods charge into a share of the lead and Rory McIlroy, four clear overnight, only manage an 80.

The 21 year old's finish was the biggest last-day lead erased in a Major since Jean Van de Velde missed out from five clear at Carnoustie in 1999.

Three years before that Greg Norman was six in front at Augusta National and with a 78 lost by five to Nick Faldo.

Schwartzel's best-of-the-day round not only saw him beat Scott and Day by two, but their fellow Australian Geoff Ogilvy, Woods and England's Luke Donald by four.

He chipped in at the first, pitched in for an eagle at the third and then, behind once again after playing the next 11 in one over, closed with a staggering four successive birdies.

Schwartzel got up and down from just over the 15th, made 15 footers on the next two greens and, with two for it at the last, converted an 18 foot putt to end the week 14 under par.

"It was such an exciting day," said Schwartzel, reflecting on a final round that saw the lead change hands no fewer than 15 times.

"There were so many roars and the atmosphere was just incredible. It was just a phenomenal day - I was getting tight coming down the 15th and I needed to do something."

Woods and Ogilvy threatened to stage the third biggest comeback in Masters Tournament history as they charged from seven back.

It was Woods - still without a victory for 17 months and now 21 events - who first took the noise level up several notches.

He birdied the second and third and then came back from a three-putt bogey at the short fourth with further birdies at the sixth and seventh and then a ten-foot eagle putt after two marvellous shots into the uphill 570 yard eighth.

A miraculous par save from pine straw and then a bunker at the ninth meant the opportunity was there for him to end his drought.

But it was not to be. He three-putted again on the 12th, missing only from three feet, and missed a four-putt eagle effort he desperately needed three holes later.

Ogilvy joined him with a brilliant five successive birdies from the 12th and two closing putts, and then Donald chipped in at the last for ten under as well - and that after hitting the flagstick with his approach from the edge of the fairway bunker.

No winner of Wednesday's par three competition has gone on to take the main event four days later and Donald failed to end the jinx as he hoped.

Going in the water for a double bogey at the 12th when he was two behind was what he called the "killer blow," adding: "It was probably my one bad swing - a push with a nine iron and I paid the penalty.

"I dug deep (with birdies at the 13th, 15th and 16th), but unfortunately I've come up short."

Argentina's 2009 winner Angel Cabrera and Korean K J Choi held a share of top spot, but made costly mistakes.

So attention focused on the battle between Scott, Schwartzel and Day.

Scott led on his own when he birdied the 14th and a tee shot to 18 inches at the 16th moved him closer to becoming Australia's first winner.

But while playing partner Day closed with two birdies, Scott parred them and well though he had played for a 67 - Day shot 68 - it was not enough.

So Schwartzel, a stablemate of McIlroy, proved to be the one who gave European Tour Members their first-ever clean sweep of the Majors.

And instead of Northern Ireland having two of the current four Major Champions it is South Africa. Louis Oosthuizen, of course, took The Open Championship last summer.

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