by Jeff Skinner
You can’t write a more amazing or sentimental script for today’s Masters victory by Phil Mickelson. He laid the foundation for his third green jacket on Saturday with his dizzying round of 67. On Sunday he didn’t disappoint his fans or himself with a bogey free 67 which included one of the most fearless shots in major championship history. When it was all over he stood on the eighteenth green with a three stroke win, his third Masters and his fourth major championship. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds.
After Mickelson had birdied twelve to go two ahead of Lee Westwood, his tee ball off thirteen landed in the trees and sat down in the pine straw. He was faced with a 200 yard shot through the trees over Rae’s Creek to the green. The safe play was a punch out to a safe distance for a wedge into the green. The conservative play, some would say smart play, was to take your medicine for a wayward tee shot, punch out and get a wedge close to the hole and still have a shot at birdie. I venture a guess that ninety per cent of the pros would have made the safe, conservative, smart play. There was just so much at stake. A miss hit puts the ball in the creek and you’re looking at a bogey or possible double bogey. If you pair that with the birdie that Westwood was probably going to make it could have been a two or even three shot swing.
It doesn’t matter to Phil. He got his yardage from Bones and he was going for it. As they say, he took dead aim and stiffed his six iron to four feet. Without a doubt it was one of the most memorable trouble shots in major championship history. That is one of the things that makes Phil Mickelson the most loved golfer playing today. The fact that he missed the eagle putt is one of the other things that make him so beloved. He is always willing to take the chance. That is what he does. He makes the impossible shot and misses the possible but he’ll always gamble and always go for it. That is what makes him Phil.
Mickelson is not shy about his feeling for Augusta. “I love this place,” he said afterward. “I love Sundays at Augusta. To play some of my best golf this week feels incredible.”
The trouble Phil and his family have been facing the past year is well known. He had his wife Amy at a tournament this week for the first time in a year. It was a special week for the Mickelson family. Amy’s battle with cancer is progressing well but it is a difficult task for all involved.
After his last putt, a birdie, hit the bottom of the cup on eighteen he was hugged by a tearful Bones MacKay and when he finally hugged Amy there were tears from both of them. There were tears from Butch Harmon and everyone else surrounding eighteen and a few hundred million people watching on CBS.
At the green jacket ceremony in front of the thousands of the Augusta faithful, he said, “I want to recognize my family. We’ve been through a lot and it means a lot to share some joy together.”
Phil’s performance this week is really typical Phil. He hit plenty of good shots, a few wild shots and a couple of history making ones. His words afterward were also typical Phil. He shared the credit for the win with his caddy and his coaches. He also knows that golf is golf, it is not life. What Amy and his mom have been through the past year has been an awakening of sorts for Phil and his family. As anyone who has had family member or friend stricken with cancer knows there are more important things in life than golf or fame or fortune. Sometimes the worst in life brings out the best in people. For the longest time Phil had a golden life and then last year what he called “a normal life” was shattered. The Michelson’s are slowly putting their life back together. It takes time, it takes patience, and it takes hard work. Amy and Phil surely cherish their lives together and on days like this we are all lucky to share their joy with them.