OUR CHAMPION: Phil Mickelson
Coming to The Masters, Phil was winless on the year in his first seven events, recording one lousy top ten. His remedy: Augusta National. With an incredible track record at this event, Phil found his A-game. He still struggled off the tee at times, but this course can be very forgiving, and Phil avoided the “big” mistake.
The one thing I do admire about Phil is the way he stays true to himself and the game he plays. His risk-reward strategy may be crazy at times, but it paid off over the weekend. I mean why wouldn’t you go for the green in two, from 207 yards out, in the pine straw, behind two trees, on the down slope, have to carry a creek, up two shots, at The Masters, with five holes to go. It makes sense…
With the victory, Phil cemented his name in Augusta history with three green jackets. It’s hard not to be happy when he wins a golf tournament. His personality is contagious. He interacts with the fans. And he is exciting to watch play. He is a true champion.
To me, it was truly synchronistic that Phil won The Masters for two reasons:
1.) His wife, battling breast cancer, attended a tournament for the first time in almost a year.
2.) With all of the Tiger hoopla still circulating, what a refreshing scene it was to see Phil embrace his wife and kiss all of his children after the victory. Golf needed this. Sports needed this. Hell, I needed this.
On a side note: I am convinced that Phil and Bones (his caddy) are having a contest to see who can go the entire year without putting on any sunscreen. I give Phil the edge at this point with a slightly redder complexion.
THE RETURN OF TIGER
This is my take on everything “TIGER”:
* It is amazing to me how he always manages to end up in contention, no matter how poorly he is playing. It’s as though he has some magical magnet that pulls the field back to him.
* It is absolutely ridiculous that some so-called experts were picking him to miss the cut this week. It’s like betting the sun it will not set every night.
* It was ideal that he played in the same group as K.J. Choi every day.
* Saturday’s 6th hole showed Tiger has been working on his positive reinforcement. After a poor tee-shot, he loudly said, “Tiger Woods, you SUCK. God dammit.” What a beautiful day at Augusta.
* Was Tiger really wearing sunglasses all week as a result of his bad allergies or because it was an easier way to look at women?
* I love the idea, but it was way too early for the Nike commercial with Tiger and his father’s voice.
* My prediction: Tiger will win both the U.S. and British Opens.
THE SENIOR TOUR
* Fred Couples played well again at Augusta, and it is always fun when he is in contention. The first round leader and ’92 Masters champ hung around all week. Fans love the laid-back, no glove, free swinging Couples. The guy also wears spikeless shoes. I have to admit it; he may be even cooler than we think.
* Tom Watson continues to defy his age. For the second time in a year, the 60 year-old hung with the young guys at a major. He continues to defy his age. It goes to show that if you play smart, keep the ball in play, and stay within your own means, you can always be successful on a golf course. Look for him to be in the hunt again at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he won the major in 1982.
* It looked as though England would end their 0 for 56 major drought with Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter leading the tournament heading into the weekend. They failed yet again to win a major golf tournament. The last player to win from England was Sir Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters.
* Speaking of Faldo, he talks too much about his glory days on air. But I guess I would too if I had three green jackets.
* The youngest player and low amateur of the tournament was 16 years old — Italy’s Matteo Manassero. Wow!
* Wouldn’t it be fun just once to see the name Carl Spackler on the leaderboard?
* Rumor has it that Stevie (Tiger’s caddy) goes commando every year in his all white Augusta jump suit. I think it’s safe to say he put his briefs on this year in light of everything that has happened with Tiger.
* My dad is still convinced the birds heard in the background during play are computerized. I wouldn’t put it past The Masters committee in doing such a thing.
* I will never watch another Forrest Whitaker movie again after hearing his voice-over IBM commercial every break in action.
The Masters proved once again why it is the best and most exciting tournament of the year. The scores were low. The roars were loud. The weather was beautiful and the course in pristine condition. There were storylines everywhere. At an event filled with such tradition and history, the golf gods were smiling down, as Augusta shined in all of its glory.
I say it every year, but this time I mean it: I am going to Augusta next April.