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Masters Glory Again for Phil Mickelson

Andy Reistetter@GolfWriter59Analyst IApril 12, 2010

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 11:  Phil Mickelson speaks to the gallery during the green jacket presentation after the final round of the 2010 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2010 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Featured Columnist Andy Reistetter is on site this week at The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia.

 

Here is his summary essay of the highlights of this week's 74th Masters.

A Masters surely to remember.

The drama of the week started early Monday morning amongst the sheets of pollen as Tiger Woods returned to the game of golf after an absence of five months.

The world watched as he once again walked the fairways of Augusta National with long time friend and confidant Fred Couples.

He was greeted warmly and by week's end in the midst of competition it was like he never left the game at all.

Well maybe not completely as his game was inconsistent to say the least.

The upsides were two eagles in each of his first and final rounds including a Sunday afternoon hole out on the par-4 seventh hole to jump-start his round after starting with three bogeys.

In between there were 17 birdies and 14 bogeys as Tiger rode the roller coaster all week long.

On Monday afternoon he answered all the questions from reporters in the packed media interview room.

"Coming into today," Tiger shared after his practice round, "I didn't know what to expect with regards to the reception, and I tell you what, the galleries couldn't be nicer. I mean, it was just incredible. The encouragement that I got, it was just—it blew me away to be honest with you, it really did.

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He apologized to his fellow players for what they have had to endure over the past five months and spoke of the changes he is making in respect of the game of golf..

"I'm actually going to try and obviously not get as hot when I play. But then again, when I'm not as hot, I'm not going to be as exuberant, either. I can't play one without the other, and so I made a conscious decision to try and tone down my negative outbursts and consequently I'm sure my positive outbursts be will calmed down, as well. Just trying to be more respectful of the game and acknowledge the fans like I did today."

For the most part that is what Tiger did throughout the week under intense competition and scrutiny.

Tiger also put the steroid and HGH (Human Growth Hormones) question to bed.

He never gave me HGH or any PEDs (performance enhancing drugs). I've never taken that my entire life. I've never taken any illegal drug, ever, for that matter.

By the time Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus for the first time hit ceremonial first tee shots together, the Tiger off-course questions were no longer relevant.

The brilliance of Tiger's return at the Masters had less to do with security and control and more to do with the biggest story of the year—golf's first major.

Champions Tour champion Fred Couples thrilled us with an opening 6-under 66 in the first round.

Phil Mickelson, K. J. Choi, and Lee Westwood would shoot 67. Tiger's first round back was a 68 and better by two strokes than any of his other 16 opening rounds of the Masters.

Cooler weather, a wind shift to out of the northwest and more difficult hole locations challenged the field on cut day.

Ian Poulter and last year's runner up Chad Campbell shot Friday's best rounds of 68.

Both would falter on the weekend with Poulter going 74-73 and Campbell 80-71.

Couples would finish with three straight bogeys and post a disappointing 75 on Friday. He came back to shoot 68-70 on the weekend to finish a respectable sixth place.

Ironically a reversal of fortune on the par-3 13th hole occurred with his ball finding the water versus staying up on the bank on the way to Masters glory in 1992.

Tom Watson at 60 years of age would start where he left off at the Open at Turnberry shooting a 67 on Thursday.

Like Couples he had difficulty with the tougher Augusta National on Friday shooting a 74.

Unlike Couples a pair of 73s on the weekend left him out of contention though thoroughly enjoying his springtime walk in the fairways of Augusta National.

"It's still always a pleasure to walk around Augusta where the azaleas are popping and there was the most beautiful bluebird on 17 I ever saw. So it was an awesome day at Augusta today."

The weekend brought calmness, warmth and reasonable course setup meaning perfect scoring conditions for the 48 players who made the cut.

Mickelson moved into position on moving day with a formidable 67 that included back-to-back eagles at the par-5 13th and the par-4 14th hole. His pitch to the par-5 15th hole almost disappeared into the hole for an unprecedented third consecutive eagle.

At day's end, he earned a spot in the final group with Lee Westwood who held a one stroke advantage as he tried to enter the record books as the only one ever to shoot four rounds in the 60s at The Masters.

Sadly for Westwood who has now after nearly winning the last three majors trumped Steve Stricker and Sergio Garcia for the title of "the best player to have never won a major."

Even a respectable 1-under par 71 did not get it done for the Englishman. Phil would post three 67s to go with his 71 in the second round en route to his third green jacket.

The only golfers with more Masters victories than Mickelson are Tiger Woods (4), Arnold Palmer (4) and Jack Nicklaus (6).

Mickelson's Sunday 67 would be enough to hold off a back nine 31 by Anthony Kim on his way to the tournament's best score of 65 and a solo third place finish.

Nick Watney's own Sunday 65 could not make up completely for his Friday 76 and he finished in solo 7th place.

In the end it was Phil the Thrill making the putt on the 12th green for the deuce that eluded him last year and then a heroic recovery shot on the 13th from the pine straw.

Well deserved and as Jim Nantz called it a "win for the family" as Mickelson's ill with cancer wife Amy and his three children embraced him in love and jubilation after a birdie on the 19th sealed his three stroke victory over Westwood.

All in all it was an exciting 74th Masters exemplified by the variety of eagles that came on Sunday after Phil's steak on Saturday.

Of the 13 eagles on Sunday, nine came the conventional way on par-5s, two came by hole outs at the par-4 seventh hole (Adam Scott and Tiger Woods), and two came by aces at the par-3 16th hole (Nathan Green and Ryan Moore).

All is well in the world of golf.

The story is the end of the other story and the beginning of a new one- a real rivalry between Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

Mickelson is definitely one up on Woods.

Can you imagine Mickelson and Woods as honorary starters like Jack and Arnie in 35 years?

Let's hope so…

 

Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer. He follows the PGA TOUR volunteering and working part time for CBS Sports, NBC Sports, and The Golf Channel.

 

He resides in Jacksonville Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.

 

He enjoys pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through his website www.MrHickoryGolf.net or by e-mailing him to AndyReistetter@gmail.com

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