Well, another chapter is closed and Spielberg couldn’t have written it better. On Easter Sunday, while people were eating ham and seeing relatives, Phil Mickelson exorcised the demon that has haunted him in every PGA Major since 1991.
This one is final. No take backs.
Mickelson was near perfection on the back nine and at times, even better. The stoic Australian, Ernie Els, was brilliant, consistently holding his position atop the leaderboard. Els held his lead through his final round finishing the day at eight under, one stroke ahead of Mickelson, still on the 16th green. It was poised to happen again.
Likened to the fate of both the Cubs and Red Sox in baseball, Mickelson has always seemed to find a way to loose. The majors are like the World Series of golf and the Masters is probably the most sought after title of the four majors.
This was Mickelson’s 48th major appearance and he had never won before. Tied with Els on the 17th tee, golf fans around the country held their breaths, waiting for another collapse.
But the collapse didn’t come on 17 and the tension built as he headed towards the final tee.
Meanwhile, Els sat, quietly eating an apple, watching the drama unfold on a small screen set up just outside the practice green. He seemed confident, waiting for a misguided shot like many others must have been.
The announcers must have been for Els. They mentioned Mickelson’s record of 47 consecutive losses, his third place finish in the last three Masters, even his tendency to choke down the stretch. All legitimate when considering a jinx. It’s kind of like the announcer saying a player has made ten consecutive free throws just before he misses one.
His tee shot on the par 4 was a high floater, landing in the center of the fairway. The second shot on was a beautifully struck ball that landed twenty feet beyond the pin. He had a twenty-foot put for the win but surely he would botch the put and lose in overtime. I mean, thats just the way things work, isn’t it?
Mickelson seemed to be oblivious to his impeding doom. As a matter of fact he seemed to be unaware of this all day. The usual Mickelson, the stern Mickelson, was nowhere to be found. The man before us had been smiling all day, like he knew something we didn’t.
Approaching the 18th green, Mickelson was greeted with a standing ovation from one of the largest galleries I’ve ever seen. The biggest putt of his life was just a few moments away and he was still smiling.
Mickelson approached his putt and the once ruckus crowd hushed. His eyes surveyed the twenty feet of green separating his ball from the cup. He took a couple practice swings and stepped up to the ball. The putt was, as expected, dramatic.
The ball headed towards the hole with kind encouragement from those in the gallery. The ball veered left caught the edge of the cup and dropped. His arms shot up and thundering roar came out of the crowd in Augusta, GA that could surely be heard all the way back in Mickelson’s hometown of San Diego.
It’s fitting that on Easter Sunday, during the most prestigious win of his career, after making the put, he looked to his caddy and mouthed the words, “Oh my God.” The once-renowned underachiever seemed to know that it was his time. We will be seeing a lot more smiles from Phil Mickelson.