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Mickelson's green is no longer from envy

April 13, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

The nearest zoo in the vicinity of Augusta, Ga., has a new resident.It's the monkey that fell off the shoulders of Phil Mickelson on Sunday at the Masters golf tournament.

While that monkey has yet to decide the next back he will hop on, someone like Sergio Garcia, "Finally-Phil" can now be excluded from the "Greatest golfers to never win a major" list.

At the beginning of the season, something hit Mickelson upstairs. It was time to eliminate the abrasiveness, the arrogance, the "I'll do it my way" attitude which didn't help attract fans his way, including myself.

The health problems within his family have been well-documented over the past four years. He may have come to some satisfaction in his mind, that along with healthy wife and children, it was time to move forward.

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My Easter Sunday dinner was slight on fare. There wasn't much room on the stack tray table in the family room in front of the tube anticipating a colossal conclusion to the Masters, one we hadn't seen since 1995 when Ben Crenshaw won the title in memory of his teacher, Harvey Penick.

The front nine was uneventful but when the game headed to the final nine holes many wonderful things started to happen.

Ernie Els stormed to the lead with an eagle on the par-5 13th to put Mickelson in arrears, beginning to look like he would be the one to claim his first Masters, although he's won other majors, unlike Mickleson.

But Mickelson was in the midst of an Arnold Palmer 1960-style charge with birdies on 12 and 13 - the back end of Amen Corner - and 14.

While Padraig Harrington and Kirk Triplett were preceding Mickelson to 16 with hole-in-one performances inside of 10 minutes, "Lefty" came up and continued the drama with another bird while Els was finding difficulty getting out of a sand trap two holes ahead.

He was smiling and you knew he was confident as he strode to the 18th tee, needing a birdie to lift the excess weight off his shoulder.

With 22 PGA Tour victories, he still had not fulfilled his expectations. He collapsed in 1999 in the U.S. Open. He was known for faltering on Sundays in majors, including three third-place showings at Augusta.

He had faced far more difficult scares than what he was faced with on 18. This time he came through with the birdie putt that was so similar to the putt that Sandy Lyle had in 1988 to win the Masters.

I won't be jumping on the Mickelson bandwagon, however, I'm so happy for what he has finally overcome. There is no doubt he deserved this championship. He was fearless, he found himself and for those that do, a career finally becomes validated. He may never win another major or this just might catapult him toward challenging Tiger Woods.

Tell me you didn't have tears in your eyes when he sank the winner; when he embraced his wife, Amy, and then his two children and you heard on television his words to his 2-year old daughter Sophia, "Daddy won! Daddy won!"

The 2004 Masters will go down in memory, not only for Mickelson's win but also the final march through Augusta of Arnold Palmer, my all-time favorite. There were tears, too, on Friday, for The King's farewell.

Another great golf major went into the pages of history.




Tim Koelble is a staff writer for the Morning Herald. His column appears every other Tuesday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2311 or by e-mail at: koelble@herald-mail.com

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