Asked how he thought he would do on his first golfing visit to these shores, Immelman replied that he had not "flown 11 hours to miss the cut". After winning his semi-final on Friday evening, the 17-year-old telephoned his father in Cape Town and ended the conversation by saying: "I'll speak to you tomorrow after I win."
Immelman, it has to be said, is used to winning, having done so on his six previous outings at home. The run included his national title, but he failed in his attempt to beat his countryman Bobby Coles' record as the youngest winner of the Amateur Championship when he lost 3 and 2 to Craig Watson at Sandwich yesterday. Immelman shares a coach with Ernie Els, who he calls a "best friend" and acknowledges the help and advice of "Mr" Player.
But it is Watson, a 31-year-old who works in his father's lighting business, who will be going to Augusta National for the US Masters next April. Watson could not illuminate the 34 holes of the final with a birdie, but the Scottish international was much the steadier of the two, losing only two holes after lunch, one of them to a birdie from Immelman at the 25th.
Like another South African player, Wayne Westner, Immelman wears a cap with the legend "No Fear" on the front. " It epitomises my attitude to life," he said. Also embroidered on the back was his name. It is clearly not allowed for an amateur player to help promote a brand name, and the case came to the attention of the officials. On investigation, they found Immelman had bought it in America and that his mother had sewn his name on to the cap so that he would not lose it.
"As long as he does not have any sort of contract to wear the cap, he is not infringing the rules of amateur status," said Peter Greenhough, the chairman of the Royal and Ancient's championship committee.
Of a build more resembling Gary Player than Els, and dressed largely in black, Immelman often had to remove the cap as the breeze playfully switched direction and varied in strength. Though constantly refining his action while still recovering from the gales at the beginning of the week, Immelman had the more orthodox swing of the two finalists.
Watson's flat arc speaks of the many years coping with such conditions but the 31-year-old almost did not make the journey down from Falkirk to Sandwich. Only the fact that Royal St George's was the only venue of the Open Championship rota he had not played, as well as persuasion from Barclay Howard, the Walker Cup player who stayed on to caddie for him, enticed Watson to enter.
Watson, two up after 11 holes, went to lunch two down but emerged from the break to play the more consistent golf. Immelman lost three of the first four holes after lunch, his tee shots at the 19th and 21st finding deep rough and Watson superbly lag-putting up the tier in the green at the 22nd.
The 25th and 26th holes were exchanged, and then at the 28th Watson's approach was stopped by a rucksack while Immelman hacked repeatedly without success in a bunker to put Watson two up. The Scot's only bogey of the afternoon came at the next, but pars at the 30th and 33rd gave him victory and denied Immelman senior the phone call he had been expecting.Reuse content