How the 2010 Masters May Have Saved Professional Golf

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistApril 12, 2010

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 11:  Phil Mickelson celebrates with his wife Amy and children (L-R) Amanda, Evan and Sophia after his three-stroke victory after winning the 2010 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2010 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

The biggest star the game of golf has ever seen was involved in one of the nastiest sex scandals any of us had ever seen.

Television ratings were slashed in half for most of the season.

Players were accused of cheating due to the PGA Tour’s sloppy implantation of the grooves rule.

At least two tournaments will be without sponsors in 2010 and another handful may be without sponsors in 2011.

In Tiger Woods’ absence, Ernie Els was the only player to step up and play some good golf, and even he did not come close to filling the void Woods had left behind.  

Professional golf was, for lack of a better term, heading down the tubes…until last weekend.

Throughout history, many professional leagues, organizations and teams have found themselves in dire situations.

More often than not, it’s a player or a group of players that come along and save a particular franchise or league.

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Rarely can a single game or series be pointed to as the event that saved a sport.

Well, we might have just witnessed a golf tournament that will go down in history as the single event that saved modern day professional golf.

The 2010 Masters had it all, and more.

The shamed superstar returned to try and reassert his dominance.

The tortured British golfer with sleepy eyes was attempting to reach the pinnacle of professional golf after years of hardship in the game.

The young guns were attempting to break down the door and seize major championship glory.  

The old folks were attempting to defy father time.

The Asian golfer was attempting to show the world that Y.E. Yang’s shocking PGA Championship win was no fluke.

The family man was trying to win one for his wife who had been suffering from cancer for the past year.

And all of this took place in the most beautiful, pristine and legendary setting imaginable at Augusta National.  

For hard core golf fans, the 2010 Masters was about as good as it gets.

But that’s not the reason why the 2010 Masters may have saved professional golf.

Hard core golf fans will tune in whether Woods or Chris Riley is leading on Sunday.

The 2010 Masters could very well wind up being a historically important event in the game’s history because of the whole new audience that was introduced to the game of golf at its most exciting.

Let’s be honest, most of the world tuned into the Masters on Thursday to see if the gallery would toss tomatoes at Woods’ head as he made his way to the first tee box.

But by Saturday afternoon the plot had changed, and the audience had grown.

Yes, the scorned superstar was still in contention and people wanted to see if “evil” would prevail.

And yes, that same scorned superstar was still tossing clubs, cursing and pouting like a fifth grader, which just added to the “good” vs. “Evil” plot.

But luckily the lovable family man swooped in and provided the audience on Saturday with 30 minutes of the most exciting golf you will ever see.  

Eventual champ Phil Mickelson went eagle-eagle-birdie through holes 13-15 on Saturday, erased a five stroke deficit in 30 minutes, and rocked Augusta National like it had not been since Jack Nicklaus carded a 30 on the back-nine on Sunday en route to his sixth green jacket in 1986.

By the time Sunday rolled along, Woods was a story, but he was not THE story anymore.

Mickelson had moved into the role of leading man, and golf couldn’t have asked for a better star to appear front and center on the biggest stage the game had ever seen.

The 2010 Masters had it all.

It had the audience: both golf and non-golf fans alike.

It had the characters: good, evil, and everything in between.

It had the setting: Augusta National.

It had the memorable shot. Mickelson’s second shot at the par-five 13th off the pine needles, under a tree, over a creek and to within five feet of the cup will go down as one of the greatest shots in major championship history.

And finally, it had the Disney-esque feel good story of a man winning a golf tournament for his beloved family who had spent the last year stuck in a living nightmare.  

In the end, it was the good-guy and real family man Mickelson who won, and there was not a dry eye in all of Georgia and he was embraced by his wife who had not been seen in public since being diagnosed with cancer last June.

With all the talk of strippers, cocktail waitresses, text messages and pre-nupts, it was a good man doing remarkable things that ultimately stole the show at the 2010 Masters.

And that folks is what the game of golf has always been about. 

Check out The Tour Report's Monday Backspin Blog to find out how Mickelson's shot on 13 will define his career.

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