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Phil Mickelson Wins Masters Golf Tournament

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Tear-filled, Storybook Ending Wraps up Emotional Week at Augusta

Photo from minds-eye via Wikimedia

Photo from minds-eye via Wikimedia

As Phil Mickelson stood on the par five 13th hole at Augusta National nursing a brand new two-stroke lead in yesterday’s Masters, his 200 yard shot to the green was over the creek and through an opening of about four feet between two pines. This was clearly a no-brainer. His longtime caddy, Jim “Bones” Mackay made his feelings clear; punch out of the trees, hit a wedge to the green and try to make a birdie.

However, there was never really a doubt in Mickelson’s mind what was going to happen. Instead, he played one of the most amazing shots in Masters’ history when he stepped up and striped a six iron through that narrow gap, landing about four feet to the right of the cup. As fellow three-time Masters winner and CBS commentator Nick Faldo, described, “The greatest shot of his life.” The fact that he missed the short eagle putt and tapped in for a birdie was anti-climactic. True followers of golf knew at that moment, he had taken control of the tournament.

However major that moment was in this most major of tournaments, the real moment was yet to come. For those of us San Diegans who follow golf, as well as most of the country, the real moment was found when he arrived at the 18th green and saw his wife, Amy standing in the crowd for the first time in over a year. It had been announced in May of 2009 that Amy Mickelson had breast cancer.

A popular figure on the Tour, known for her humility and beautiful spirit, Amy has often walked all 18 holes in her husband’s rounds, greeting everyone like they were family. She had not attended a tournament since May, but came to Augusta on Tuesday with the couple’s three children; Amanda, 10, Sophia, 8, and Evan, 7. Knowing she wouldn’t have the strength come to the course, she stayed at the family’s rented home nearby with the kids. “I’ve been trying to rest so I wouldn’t get sick,” she said. “If I would have come out here, it probably would have been too much. I just wanted him to focus on winning the Masters this week and not worry if I was sick or if I was out here walking and wasn’t doing well.”

After all, Phil had been particularly attentive in the months since she was diagnosed. That commitment had cost Mickelson. He had not blamed his struggles to his wife’s illness, but those around him said being torn between his job and family had taken its toll. His swing coach, Butch Harmon described it well. “It’s been very hard, obviously. He had to take a lot of criticism and stuff, and quite frankly, he wants to be home. He wants to be where he’s needed, and he’s played through it. A lot of it is just his head wasn’t 100 percent into it.”

But when it was clear that Phil Mickelson would once again slip on the ‘green jacket’, that’s when Amy Mickelson appeared at the back of the 18th green. As the Rancho Santa Fe couple hugged for several seconds in a long embrace, Amy’s emotions were hidden by sunglasses, but tears rolled down Mickelson’s cheeks. I don’t know if we said anything,” Phil said. “We just hugged.”

Of Amy, he said: “She is an incredible wife and an incredible mother, and it’s been an inspiration to me this past year, seeing what she’s been through. I’m so glad she and the kids are here. It’s been such an incredible week, an emotional week. And to cap it off with this victory, I can’t put into words, but it’s something we’ll share for the rest of our lives.”

After the ceremony, Amy Mickelson stood in front of Augusta’s Butler Cabin and said with a smile, “I’m feeling overwhelmed.” When asked about that fateful shot on the thirteenth hole, Amy said she knew he was going to go for it, recognizing it in his body language, learned through nearly 14 years of marriage. “I like that in him,” she said. “I know people say sometimes it’s a mistake. I don’t. I believe in him. A lot of those shots are the reason he has so many victories.”

A moment later she would add, “I believe in a lot of things now …” as her voice trailed off and she began to cry.

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