Mickelson is Masterful at Augusta National
In a week filled with so many subplots, the good guy in black eventually won.
Phil Mickelson donned the third green jacket of his career with a sterling, bogey free, final round 5-under par 67 that included one of the best final-round shots ever hit in Masters play and quite probably one of the best shots ever pulled off in a major.
In short, the week was Phil being Phil (acknowledging the gallery, enjoying the rounds, feeding off and generating the energy and vibe), Phil being Lefty (thinking his way around the golf course and executing his game plan) and Phil being Philly Mick (back to back eagles; five under par in three holes on Nos. 13 through 15 on Saturday; playing from the pine straw on No. 13 on Sunday; finishing off the tournament with a birdie on No. 18).
Mickelson was not exactly on fire when entered 2010's first major. The speculation had been that with Tiger Woods and all his off-the-course issues, out of action indefinitely to begin the PGA Tour season, that someone would have to step up and assume the mantle of being the face of the Tour, at least until Woods's inevitable return.
Many thought and believed that player to be Mickelson who, at the beginning of the 2010 season was the second-=ranked player in the World and was coming off a monster finish to the 2009 campaign. However, Phil either didn't get the memo, maybe didn't read it all the way through, but whatever the reason, the first part of the season leading up to Augusta was anything but great for Lefty.
Then, the charm, the magic that is Augusta National came streaming through the Georgia pines like late afternoon sunlight during a final round at The Masters. Mickelson had stated in one of his many press conferences that once he gets on the grounds at Augusta National he feels "a sense of calm" because he knows he doesn't have to play "perfect golf" to play well. It is just one of the many things that make the season's first major so different from any other during the year. There is a different vibe, a different aura that separates The Masters from its contemporaries and with each of those many press conferences you could see a far different Phil than the one who struggled with his driver, with his putter and with his game coming into the 74th edition of this Masters.
It will simply be known as "The Shot". When Mickelson found the pine straw amidst the trees with his driver on the par-five 13th hole on the final nine holes of the season's first major, for most players the prudent play would be to lay up to a good distance, take the big number out of play, especially with a front right hole location and Rae's creek looming. That would be most players. Instead, Philly Mick took dead aim, and launched what just might go down as the shot of his Hall of Fame career (and that is saying a lot).
The swashbuckling 6-iron from the pine straw between two towering pine trees on No. 13 NEVER left the flag and settled in nicely just underneath the hole. It was a shot that few would even consider much less pull off, especially in the final round of a major, and it's just one of the many reasons we love Phil Mickelson, for more often than not, he's willing to go for it, he's one of us.
Years from now, everyone will remember the "The Shot", few will care that he missed the resulting eagle putt. The birdie there was enough to separate Mickelson from the rest of the pack and secure his fourth major championship.
Lee Westwood is a fine player, No. 4 in the world, in fact, and a 20-time winner worldwide. If there is any knock on his play, it's that his short game is not up to contemporary professional standards and unfortunately at Augusta National, precision is a big part of the game plan.
So when you miss a green, you have to do two things, first you have to miss on the correct side in the correct area and second, you have to be able to get it up and down.
Never was Westwood's short game deficiency more evident than early in the round on the par 3 fourth hole where he pushed his tee shot hole high, right of the green in what appeared to be a decent (for a touring professional at least) lie and then attempted to putt the ball on to the green instead of chipping it. The resulting misplay left Westwood with a significantly longer par putt which he then missed. Now Westwood did bounce back with a birdie at No. 5 (as he did at No. 2 after an opening bogey at first hole) but it was just another example of how the Englishman gave up shots unnecessarily and what ultimately cost him the tournament.
Ironically, while Westwood's short game is below average for a tour player, he was paired with Phil Mickelson in the final round, one of the best short game players of all-time. Karma.
Anthony Kim fired one of two 7-under par 65s on Sunday at Augusta National, the other being posted by Nick Watney. Kim's 65 left the talented young player alone in third place; four shots back of Mickelson at 12-under for the week. Watney's 65 moved him up to solo seventh at minus-8 for the week.
Kim's round featured a bogey, six birdies and an eagle, including a run of five under in four holes (Nos. 13-16) as he became the player who ran out of holes in Sunday's final round at Augusta National. This is the same player who last year at Augusta ran off 11 birdies in a round but it might have been Saturday's indifferent 1-over par 73 that left AK short of the mix.
It would be hard to imagine Kim not contending in the future for major championships, but he's got to show that he can put it together for four days in a major. He's got more than enough firepower and talent but can he harness that energy and channel it into a course management strategy that he can execute, especially in the crucible that is a major?
Tiger Woods began the week in the Media Center on Monday answering questions revolving around the events of the last five months. Once that was done, it was all business on the golf course and once again Tiger showed why he is the Number One ranked golfer in the World.
Thursday's 4-under par 68 was Tiger's best opening round in his career at Augusta and while Friday's 2-under par 70 kept him in contention, Saturday's 2-under par 70 and Sunday's 3-under 69 may have been his best rounds of the tournament as they came while his game was deteriorating through the weekend.
Woods was leaking oil on Saturday and Sunday as he gave himself chances but also threw away shots. Saturday's 2-under par 70 was a perfect example of that. In round three Woods notched seven birdies on the day, only to give back five of them with bogeys. The uncharacteristic roller coaster ride continued on Sunday as it seemed just when Woods's game was going off the tracks (bogeys at Nos. 1, 4 & 5), he'd reign it back in (eagle from the fairway at No. 7 followed by birdies at Nos. 8 & 9). To give you an idea how out of sync Woods was can you imagine that Eldrick would put up 11 birdies and 2 eagles at Augusta National in the final 36 holes and not win The Masters?
Overall Woods kept himself in contention and was under par through all four rounds in his return to competitive golf.
Still top-5 finishes are not what drives the Woods machine. Championships are all that matter and Major Championships mean the most.
Where will Tiger play next? That question was posed to Woods following is round by CBS's Peter Kostis (Note: Let's just say that there will NEVER be a Woods/Kostis pairing in the local Chapman Event at Isleworth and it was fun to hear CBS testing the limit of Woods's patience by having Peter Kostis, and again, they aren't friendly, doing the post round interview which was aired on Westwood One's radio coverage of The Masters) and of course, Tiger didn't know, or more accurately, he knows but he's not going to tell you, me or especially Peter Kostis. My bet would be the Quail Hollow Championship, April 29-May 2, a wonderfully run event that is top-notch all the way.
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