What a week. What a winner. What a performance.
Phil Mickelson became the Masters champion for the third time when he holed an ten foot birdie putt on the final green to win his fourth major title and fell into a tearful embrace with his wife Amy, who is battling breast cancer.
“It feels incredible to win this tournament,” Mickelson said in the Butler Cabin. “It’s the most amazing feeling. This has been a special day. It’s something I’ll always cherish.
“This has been an emotional year. I’m proud of my wife and the fight and the struggle. To come out on top of this tournament is emotional, very emotional. It’s one of the best things that we’ve gone through. The last year we’ve gone through a lot. To feel this kind of jubilation is incredible.”
After Angel Cabrera helped him into the Green Jacket, he said: “It fits. it feels great.” He was born to win this tournament.
One clear of Lee Westwood and KJ Choi on 12 under as he made the turn, Mickelson grabbed his destiny with both hands on the fabled back nine by surging home in 32 for a three shot victory over the Englishman, finishing on 16 under par thanks to sensational, bogey free final round of 67.
Spare a thought for Westwood who has now finished third, third and second in his last three majors. But as the Worksop man was generous to Mickelson after a fighting 71, explaining: “You know, he’s been through hard times recently and he deserves a break or two.”
After a week that was dominated by Woods, the man who has tried hard to wreck his family, this was a fairytale win for Mickelson, who is now the top active player with most majors after Woods with four.
A brash Californian set the clubhouse target of 12 under after a brilliant closing 65. But it wasn’t Tiger, who carded an erratic 69 to finish tied fourth with KJ Choi on 11 under, but last week’s Shell Houston Open winner Anthony Kim. He eventually finished solo third.
It was Phil the Thrill as usual as he was made to work hard for what will go down as one of the great major victories.
Choi tied him for the lead by holing a seven footer for birdie in the 10th but the Korean could not emulate US PGA champion and compatriot YE Yang and bogeys at the 13th and 14th proved fatal to his chances.
Despite driving deep into the woods on the 10th, Mickelson saved a brilliant par from short of the green and took his first giant step towards the title when he birdied the 12th from 20 feet to lead by one from Choi.
The shot that won him the title came at the par-five 13th, where he drove into the trees but recovered drilling an incredible long iron between two trees.
Sending up an explosion of pine straw, he punched his left fist in ecstasy as the ball shot out between the pines like a missle, cleared Rae’s Creek by a couple of yards and settled four feet from the pin.
Inexplicably, Mickelson misread his eagle chance but still made birdie to remain two clear.
When Westwood missed a four footer for birdie on the par-five 15th, Mickelson calmly two putted for his four to go three clear with three to play having found the green with another daring long iron.
In fairness to Westwood he applied pressure with a birdie at the 17th but Mickelson made a tough five footer for par to go to the last two clear and cracked a three wood up the left side of the 18th and a superb approach to eight feet to clinch the title in style after Westwood’s birdie chance slipped past the edge.
It was a Masters to burn on DVD to watch over and over again. The roars appeared to come thick and fast as the day wore on, and they began long before the leaders hit the back nne..
Five strokes behind Lee Westwood starting the day, 50 year old Fred Couples looked as though he could become the oldest Masters champion in history when he birdied the second, third and ninth to get within two strokes of Choi and Mickelson with nine to play.
But in one of the great ironies of golf, he followed a bogey on 11 with a double bogey on the par-three 12th, the hole that was emblematic in his 1992 triumph, when his tee shot miraculously stayed on the bank.
This time it dribbled back into the water and while he birdied 13 and 14, he was always going to struggle to catch the red hot leaders and bogeyed the 16th, finishing solo sixth on nine under par after a 70.
Woods looked a sinister character all week with his goatee beard and dark, dark glasses.
Four back starting the day, he paid the price for his week log exertions with an erratic final round performance. Out of sync with his swing, he pulled his opening tee shot onto the ninth fairway to drop a shot and bogeyed the fourth and fifth with sloppy chipping.
The world No 1 was always going to struggle to remain in the hunt after an exhausting week but he kept us guessing. First he holed his approach to the 450-yard seventh for eagle two and then birdied the eighth and ninth to lie just three behind with nine to play.
After a miracle par on the 11th he followed a birdie on the 13th with a three-putt bogey from five feet on the 14th and while he eagled the 15th and birdied the last, he was too far adrift to clinch his fifth green jacket and his 15th major.
It was another Nike man who lit up the course on Sunday - 24 year old Kim.
Eight behind starting the day, Kim played with the usual bravado to set the 12 under par target with a stunning, seven under par 65.
It was up to Mickelson, Westwood and Choi to make sure they beat that number but the Englishman could not match Mickelson’s brilliance.
While not quite a pale shadow of the man who dominated for the first three days, the Worksop man started in disconcerting fashion, driving into the left trees and hitting a pine with his escape to start with a bogey.
Mickelson started at a canter with seven straight pars but it wasn’t long before he was on he gallop.
Denied a birdie at the second when a stamen that had floated down from a nearby pine, settled on his line and deflected his seven footer from its path as it tracked for the hole, he didn’t make his first birdie of the day until the eighth. Even then he flirted with disaster, slicing his fairway wood approach into the trees and getting a ricochet that left him with an 83 yard pitch and putt for his birdie.
That gave him a share of the lead with Westwood on 12 under par but the ninth would prove to be a turning point. Mickelson looked certain to bogey after another wild drive but hit a glorious flop shot to a few feet to save par as the Englishman three putted from an precarious position above the hole.
The left hander made another miraculous up and down at the 10th after a wild hook finished 30 yards right of the fairway, deep in the woods. We were set for dramatic back nine battle and Mickelson seized his chance with both hands after a favourable ricochet off a patron’s head at the 11th, allowed him to begin his triumphal march through Amen Corner on the right foot.