My Sympatico column on Phil Mickelson’s Masters win went live last night. Here’s a taste:
The headlines starting the week at The Masters were strictly about the comeback of golf’s fallen star.
But it was the gutsy, dynamic play of Phil Mickelson that electrified Augusta National on Sunday as he charged past all of the pretenders in taking his third green jacket.
“I don’t normally shed tears over wins,” Mickelson said after his round. But that’s exactly what he did amid the setting sun, as his wife, Amy, who has battled breast cancer in the last year, appeared unexpectedly. Mickelson greeted her as he walked off the final green with a 5-under-par round that gave him a three-shot win over Englishman Lee Westwood.
“When Amy and I hugged off 18, that was a very emotional moment for us and something that I’ll look back on and just cherish,” he said. “I mean, I’ll cherish every moment of this week. This has been a very special week.”
Indeed it was. Few expected Mickelson to be the deciding factor in golf’s first major of 2010. All eyes were on Tiger Woods’ return to golf after a sex scandal kept him away from the game since November. Woods answered his critics with a 4-under-par 68 on the opening day, but could do no better. Instead, he hit played erratic, maddening and sometimes remarkable golf the rest of the way, finishing fourth.
But Phil being Phil, he kept the tournament interesting right up until the last three holes. He told reporters afterwards that he was worried about Westwood right up until he hit his approach on the final hole. Truthfully Mickelson put the tournament with a ballsy birdie on the 13th hole when he decided to try for the green from underneath trees on the right side of the fairway, with his ball perched precariously on the pine straw. His approach carried over the creek that protects the green, leaving Mickelson with a relatively easy two-putt. Phil the Thrill indeed.
Many had expected Mickelson to take advantage of Woods’ departure from the game in the opening months of the year. Instead Mickelson looked like he was on cruise control, proving that he’s arguably the most talented player on the PGA Tour, but also the most frustrating as well. In the end it took Tiger’s return to stoke the fire in the game’s second-best player.
“I felt like I was playing this well starting the year,” he says despite carding only one Top 10 finish this year prior to today. “I just haven’t had the results, whatever it was. I wasn’t discouraged. I felt actually very confident heading in here but certainly I wanted to have some confidence and wins and getting into contention.”