The Masters: Truly a Tradition Unlike Any Other

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The Masters: Truly a Tradition Unlike Any Other
David Cannon/Getty Images

As I was driving my ice cream truck Sunday and unable to see the Masters until the 13th hole, I was pondering about writing a column recapping the Masters.

At the time, I figured Tiger Woods was going to make some improbable run, and Phil Mickelson was going to be there in the end giving Woods all he could handle. I also thought KJ Choi would be the dark horse to sneak in and give Woods and Mickelson trouble, while Lee Westwood would fall so far off that he might not even make the top three.

Let's just say I went 1-for-4.

This year's Masters had to be the most anticipated in eons. And by eons I mean a really, really, long time.

Everything that Woods had gone through up to this point was about to be put on the line. Mickelson was dealing with his wife's struggle with breast cancer and dealing with all of the stress that comes with it. Westwood had finished second, third, and second again in his past three majors—would this be the time he finally broke through? At 50, Fred Couples was trying to be the oldest golfer to win the Masters.

Storyline after storyline presented itself, so we all knew we were in for a doozy.

But the main story is and always will be Woods. How would he play? Would he make the cut? Would he win it? Would he be heckled by fans and media members? Will he be a changed Tiger and not throw his clubs and shout profanity at himself? And most of all, can golf finally be relevant again with Woods back?

Well, nearly all of those questions were answered.

Woods' opening-round 68 was so impressive it had me calling all of my known golf followers (about two or three) asking if they had seen it.

Golf isn't like basketball, football, or even baseball. If you take three weeks off it's almost impossible to come back and play well the first few times out. If you take 144 days off, like Woods, it's completely impossible to play well. So what does he do? He shoots a 68, his lowest ever at the Masters for an opening round.

Of course there were other storylines as the weekend went on.

We saw Couples and Tom Watson rope in the over-50 crowd, and had all of the old timers rooting for them. Meanwhile, Mickelson and Lee were in the hunt the entire way, along with Choi and Anthony Kim.

This Masters was just chock-full of great moments. Saturday's action was just crazy, as Mickelson gave us maybe one of the best three hole stretches in the history of golf.

Let's just remember that they're playing at Augusta National, the course with the most unforgiving greens in the country.

So Mickelson hits an eagle at 13 with a solid eight-foot putt. What does he do for an encore? Oh, he hits a 149-yard eagle in the air with a backspin—a dead stick.

He wasn't done. Mickelson takes the next eagle shot on 15 and it bounces about six feet short of the pin, and it starts rolling, rolling, rolling and JUST misses the pin by three inches. Mickelson was on fire.

It's like being at a roulette table and you're just playing black and the middle column back and forth, and you just hit every single bet. Before you know it, you're plus-300. That's kind of what Mickelson was doing on Saturday.

Come Sunday, we're set up for a Mickelson, Woods, Westwood, Choi run for the championship. Everyone knows Woods is 0-for-55 when not having a lead going into Sunday. But this felt different. Would he come back and make a run at it?

Well let's just say Woods had a yo-yo type of day. Through the first five holes he had bogeyed three times. The next four holes he shoots four-under.

Are you kidding me?

And then on the back nine, he three-putts inside four feet—so un-Tiger-like.

You could just see he was losing his composure and edge. But what does Woods do? He makes sure that we don't forget him. On 15, after bogeying 14, he sinks an eagle! Should this really surprise us? This is what he does; he keeps us engaged and interested.

But this was going to be Mickelson's weekend all the way, this much was clear after his incredible shot on 13.

I've never seen a player go for a shot like this in my life, AND actually execute it. Stuck behind two trees with 220 yards to the pin Mickelson says to himself, "Instead of laying up, I'm just going to have the biggest pair of kahonas anyone has ever seen, and I'm going to stick this four feet form the cup."

CHA-CHING! He nails it.

Right then and there I knew it was Mickelson's tournament. I was watching live at my boss' house and we both nearly fell off the couch. We spent the next 15 minutes watching the replay, wondering how the hell he hit that shot.

With the well-deserved win, Mickelson earns his third green jacket and cements his place in history as one of the better golfers of all-time.

As for Woods, I think CBS commentator Jim Nantz summed it up best with his quote that was immediately broadcast via Twitter by ESPN's Bill Simmons: "Through all of this, Tiger manages a 69."

Ha, ha! C'mon, you know you laughed a little bit reading that.

But all jokes aside (it's really hard to put jokes aside by the way), considering everything Woods has gone through and to go out and shoot 68, 70, 70, and 69 is pretty impressive.

And this is why we continue to watch golf and Woods—you never know what is going to happen.

Once Woods is back in full force, watch out world.

He just shot 11-under at one of the toughest courses in the world after a 144-day layoff. This, after being virtually crucified, he rose above it all and played like the champion he is.

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