'I went from winning a tournament to a hospital bed'

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The Independent Online

When Trevor Immelman was laid up in a hospital bed, wondering if that lump growing inside his body was cancerous, the last thing on his mind was winning a golf tournament – much less a major. He thought about all his loved ones, especially one-year-old son Jacob.

"You want to hang around and be part of his growing up, try and make sure he turns into a good, upstanding citizen of the world," Immelman said. "It was all scary."

Fortunately, the tumour in Immelman's diaphragm was benign. "It definitely gives you perspective," he said. "I went from winning a tournament to lying in a hospital bed waiting for results on a tumour. It definitely made me realise that golf wasn't my whole life."

Last December, coming off a win in his homeland, Immelman felt a severe pain around his ribcage. He also had trouble breathing. He withdrew from the South African Airways Open and went to see his doctor, who gave him the grim news. "There's something in there that has to come out," he was told.

"I don't think I was really knowing what was going on at that point," Immelman said. "They were pumping me so full of stuff just to try to get over the pain that I don't think it really mattered to me what the result was at that point. Obviously, my family was there every step of the way. They were obviously real nervous, and we were just thrilled when we found out it was some rare type of benign tumour."

With a seven-inch gash across his right lower back, the sight of which still startles the 28-year-old, Immelman needed a couple of weeks just to get back on his feet. It would take another month before he was able to start hitting a few chips and putts. He made it back on the course for the FBR Open in Phoenix on the final day of January. But he still had plenty of work to do to get his game back in shape.

Through his first eight events of the year, Immelman missed the cut four times but against all odds he suddenly found his swing when he got to Augusta.

Fellow South African, and holder of three Green Jackets, Gary Player has long touted Immelman as a rising star, and endured heavy criticism for making him a captain's pick for the 2005 Presidents Cup. The selection secured Immelman his playing rights on the PGA Tour and controversially provided a platform for his breakthrough win in the US at the Western Open the following season.

"His swing is absolutely the closest that I have seen to Ben Hogan, and I've always thought that Ben Hogan was the best striker of the ball from tee to green that I ever saw," Player exalted. "Marvellous."

Best of Floyd is untouchable

Trevor Immelman's wire-to-wire triumph at Augusta was the first since Ray Floyd in 1976. In his only Masters win, the American opened with a seven-under 65 followed by a 66 to lead Jack Nicklaus by five shots at halfway. Floyd could afford to coast home with two rounds of 70 for an eight-shot victory.