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Masters champ Immelman praises Woods

As big an upset as it was for Trevor Immelman to have won the Masters last year, that was nothing compared to the surprise in what he said yesterday. During the annual defending champion's international conference call, he had this to say about Tiger Woods, who surely will overshadow Immelman at Augusta National next month: "In fact, I don't think he gets enough attention."

He wasn't kidding, either. Immelman knows that his own Green Jacket won't lay a glove on Woods' aura when everyone shows up for this year's Masters, especially because it will be Woods' first major since winning the U.S. Open on a broken leg. The defending champ thinks that's the way it should be.

"You know that doesn't faze me in the slightest," Immelman said. "Tiger 100 percent deserves all the attention he gets. The guy is superhuman in some respects."

There is no better advertisement for that than the commercial Nike began running last month, showing highlights from the latter part of 2008 involving Immelman, Stewart Cink, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard and Carl Pettersson. Those five are first seen making all kinds of successful shots, celebrating them, then whooping it up in the locker room to the sound of the old Lesley Gore upbeat anthem, "Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows." Then Woods walks in and the music stops. The smiles evaporate, as if to say, "Uh-oh, the party is over, he's back."

It makes a person wonder how they got those five accomplished golfers to do such a humbling spot. "That's a great question," Immelman said yesterday. "I'm not sure, either."

"We were all down in Fort Worth to shoot a bunch of different spots, some of which you'll see in the coming weeks and months, and to do a bunch of print ads for Nike. The way they sold it to us that they wanted to really acknowledge the great season that Nike golf had had -- the five or six guys who had won on tour -- and also find a way to involve Tiger and welcome him back from his long injury.

"I mean, obviously, everybody who has any involvement in the game, whether it be through course design or media or players or sponsors, everybody wants him to come back, everybody needs him to come back and play well. He's the most visible athlete on earth," Immelman said. "We had a great time shooting it."

Immelman had the time of his life shooting 75 in the final blustery round at Augusta last April, having come off surgery the previous December (to remove a benign tumor from behind his rib cage). He hardly was a favorite. But he got on a roll and stayed there.

The rainbow over his day was the fact that one particular person was in contention almost to the end: Tiger Woods. "My personal opinion, when it's all said and done, he will be holding every record that we have in our sport," Immelman said. "So for me to be able to have won my first major championship with him in the field and with him finishing second, without a doubt that's a feather in my cap."


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