Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Good triumphs and sanity returns to Golf

Phil Mickelson was doing his best not to cry again as he slipped into another green jacket and tried to express what he couldn't possibly put into words.

Before winning his third US Masters with a final-round, near-flawless five-under-par 67 to post a 16-under total of 272 for a three-shot win, Mickelson had already shed a tear on the 18th green, though he wasn't alone.

Anyone who knew the story had to shed a few too, as Mickelson latched onto the tiny blonde, who had been through so much, and embraced her.

He had struggled on the golf course all year, but that meant nothing. Not compared with the struggles Amy Mickelson went through while battling breast cancer.

There would be plenty of time later to talk about the shot that will live in Masters lore, plenty of time to reflect on what a third title means to his career. Mickelson wanted to talk about something closer to his heart - his wife.

He said: "We've been through a lot this year. It means a lot to share some joy together."

All week long the talk at the Masters was of another golfer and other women: the circus that surrounded Tiger Woods.

Mickelson hadn't been ignored, but he had certainly been overlooked. He wasn't alone because the drama surrounding the comeback of Woods overshadowed the entire week at Augusta National. Until early Sunday evening, that is.

It started with a shot a Vegas high-roller would have never dreamed of betting on. It ended with a scene so touching, it washed away any lingering memories of the stain Woods had put on this Masters.

The man who represents everything that Woods doesn't stood wearing the green jacket that Woods so desperately coveted. Even better, when he looked up on the 18th green, his wife - who had been bed-ridden most of the week - and his children were there to share it all with him.

If it was emotional for Mickelson, it was also therapeutic to golf.

The throngs who crowded every hole as the leaders made their way around Augusta National may not have been sure how much emotion they were going to invest in Woods, but with Mickelson there was no doubt.

They cheered him on every shot, pulled for him at every turn.

And when he hit the shot on No13 no one will ever forget, they roared with delight.

The swashbuckler danced with danger and pulled it off. Mickelson couldn't help himself because, while the risk was great, the reward was even greater.

He could have lost this Masters, too, something caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay was thinking as he debated the wisdom of the shot with his boss of 18 years.

"I begged him to lay up on 13," Mackay said. "He said: 'Get out of the way'."

Mickelson was in the pine needles off the right side of the 13th fairway with two large trees right in front of him and 207 yards to the hole. He had a six iron in hand, and a narrow chute of just a few feet to feed the ball through while making sure he hit it pure enough to clear the water in front of the green.

No one else would have even attempted it. Mickelson didn't give it a second thought.

From that point no one else was in the tournament. I just love that goodness and honesty triumphed over lies and deceit who says good guys come in last?