|Victory for Immelman in Germany
|Trevor Immelman shot a blistering 7-under 65 to beat Ireland's Padraig Harrington by one shot in Sunday's tense, tight, final-round Deutsche Bank-SAP Open cliff-hanger.
And ironically if any one club in his bag was more responsible than any other for this outstanding victory in what was easily the strongest field to contest a European Tour event this year, it had to be his controversial new belly putter which compatriot Ernie Els wants banned.
In a surprising outburst on Thursday, Els hit out at all long-handled putters as being unfair and called for them to be banned, but Immelman shrugged away the criticism and thumbed his nose at Els by using it with telling effect.
From the opening round when he shot a 65 to the closing round when he did it again, his putting was rock-solid and in the end it was two superbly-taken putts under crushing pressure at the 17th and 18th holes that made the difference between winning and losing.
Both were within a 10 foot radius of the hole, it was clear that both would bend and both were absolutely vital for victory.
The ice cool, deadpan Immelman never looked like missing, nailing the first at the 17th to save par and keep Harrington at bay, and draining the second for the critical birdie that took his tournament total to the 17-under 271 that gave him his 2nd Tour victory of the year.
In January of this year he followed his triumph in the WGC-World Cup with Rory Sabbatini late last year with a second successive victory in the South African Airways Open.
His bogey-free, seven-birdie round on Sunday also earned him one of European's fattest cheques of €500,000, catapulted him into third place on the Volvo Order of Merit list with €755,122 and consigned Harrington to the 22nd runners-up spot of his career.
Harrington, playing at the back of the field in the two-ball immediately behind Immelman, also produced some magnificent pressure golf for his seven-birdie one bogey 66.
The two matched each other shot for shot as they took their overnight scores from 10-under to 16 under.
After stumbling with a bogey at the second, but making up for it with one more birdie than Immelman's three by the 9th, the Dublin star's big chance to change the course of the game finally came at the 17th where a magnificent approach from out of the rough gave him a birdie putt from almost the same distance as Immleman's earlier par-saving 10 footer.
He missed and went to the dangerous, watery 18th needing a birdie to tie Immelman and force a play off.
Here he hit a conservative long iron to avoid the water and finished some 30 to 40 yards short of where the more daring Immelman had found the fairway with his driver.
But it mattered not. The Irishman's approach shot, though fired from a longer distance, was every bit as accurate as Immelman's, also stopping within a radius of 10ft from the hole to give him virtually the same chance that Immelman had had when he made his closing birdie.
The one difference?
Playing partner Gregory Havret wasn't in a position to give him a read of the putting line in the way that Joakim Haeggman had done for Immelman when his longer put on the same line just turned up its nose at the last minute and cost him the additional €100,000 he would have earned for finishing alone in third place instead of having to share it with Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke. Both shot 3-under 69s.
Harrington, his wife breathless on the sidelines, missed the golden opportunity, of course, and Immelman, sitting in the markers tent, raised his fist in triumph and hugged his caddy.
"That final putt was awesome," the 24-year-old South African recalled.
"I was lucky to get a great read from Joakim and it went in, but you know what? From the time I hit the (18th) fairway with my drive, I had this very strong feeling I was going to birdie the hole.
"And by then I knew how I stood. I knew what I had to do."
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