Quiet Return to Form for 2008′s Final Pairing
By Conor Nagle under The Masters

One name making a very welcome return to a Masters leaderboard yesterday was that of South African Trevor Immelman, the 2008 champion, who’s spent much of the last two seasons battling tendonitis in his wrist. Having only been able to play and practice sporadically over the course of 2009 and 2010, he finally seems to have put injury behind him.The possessor a genuinely classy golf swing (my personal vote for best on tour!), Immelman has set about rebuilding his game over the early part of this season and entered this week showing increasingly regular glimpses of his pre-injury form. Though his first-round 69 featured one of the shots of the day– a majestic second shot to the fifteenth– he’s understandably hesitant when it comes to declaring himself reborn:

“Q: Are you all the way back? Are you getting there?

TREVOR IMMELMAN: My wrist is all the way back, yeah. My wrist is all the way back. I would say this year — from about November, December last year, I didn’t have to worry about it as much, and I could go ahead and start practicing stuff I wanted to practice. You know, at that point it just became a matter of me getting in the right practice and trying to get rid of all the bad habits I got into playing injured. So that’s been a process, and it’s been pretty good on the range. And I’ve started taking it better to the golf course. You know, every week seems to be getting a little bit better, but I’ve still got a long way to go to get back to where I was.”

If Immelman’s tentative return is an encouraging one, so too is that of Brandt Snedeker, his playing partner on that Sunday three years ago. He also carded a 69 yesterday and, having endured more than his fair share of disappointment over the last two seasons, the American sounds confident that he’s on the verge of recapturing his most potent form:

“Q: You’ve been really close here. How do you feel–

BRANDT SNEDEKER: I feel great. I feel this is the best I’ve played in my career. I feel really comfortable with where I am in my life. I also have a newborn at home, so that’s exciting. Gives me something else to focus on instead of my golf game so much, so I don’t live and die by Thursdays and Fridays anymore, which is nice. Just having a lot more fun with it, so I feel like this is going to be a really good year.”

Augusta has a knack of re-awakening dormant ability and enthusiasm for the game. One gets the sense that, regardless of the outcome, both Immelman and Snedeker are benefiting from merely retracing their steps.