Sympatico Column: Phil the Thrill

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.”

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • RT,

    I was just wondering whether it is difficult writing columns from Toronto, on a tournament that took place in Augusta? I guess the serious golf writers were in Georgia. Too bad you can’t write about the subject with first hand knowledge, and have to get you information like the rest of us.

  • Nigel, I suspect most of those writers in Augusta were watching on TV the same as the rest of us were. The post-round interviews are also largely available if you know where to look — and in the case of Woods, nothing would be forthcoming anyway. Not sure I understand the point of your comment.

    As for the outcome — karma was in full swing as the right person won and, more importantly, Woods did not win. His outbursts on the course, his utter lack of interaction with the gallery, his general lack of joy on the course, and his graceless and self-centered comments after the round show that he has not changed a bit. I wonder if he will again freeze out Peter Kostis in the future as he did in the past by refusing to talk to him on CBS.

    Congratulations to Phil Mickelson on a wonderful win. Hopefully this will act as a tonic for Amy and his mom in their fight against cancer.

  • Nigel: I consider myself a “serious” golf writer. Sure there were a lot of “golf” writers at Augusta — but given the fact there is one or two regular writers covering the whole tour, I’d say most of those “serious” ones follow the sport with a lot more distance than I.

    Interestingly, what Greg says is true — many of the writers who do travel to places like Augusta never leave the media tent, instead watching the event on television. These same writers never ask any questions of the golfers, never venture out to find out what the stories are. This happens at the Canadian Men’s and Women’s Opens every year — some of my peers sit in air conditioning and don’t ever walk with the golfers or find the stories that take time and effort. Thankfully there are plenty of great golf writers in this country who do take the effort…

    I have a column to file at least once a week — and the organization I write for has been very generous, but they aren’t yet willing to foot the bill to The Masters. I’ll keep my fingers crossed in the hope that I too may one day grow up to be a “serous” golf writer.

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