Masters wrap: Left behind by Phil

In the face of the Tiger era, Mickelson buckled down, worked hard, and found another gear

The gods of golf decided to go for cheap melodrama on Sunday, letting Phil Mickelson walk away from the field and take a third Masters as his cancer-fighting wife Amy looked on. Well, maybe we shouldn’t credit it to the gods, but to Mickelson’s all-around game, which only Tiger Woods can match at times when his morale and concentration aren’t shot to hell.

Insofar as fate or divine intervention had anything to do with Lefty’s win, they seemed to be against it. He had an extremely makeable birdie putt on the 2nd hole, but on his backswing a stamen from a pine tree plopped directly in the path of his ball. This was creepy, as Bill Simmons would say, on a Blair Witch level. As Jim Nantz and Verne Lundquist summoned their formidable intellectual powers to the task of figuring out what the hell happened, CBS cut to a wide shot of the hole. The day was sunny, without enough wind to stir a puff of pipesmoke; there were, and are, no trees within 70 or 80 yards of the hole. The offending vegetation appeared to have dropped vertically out of a clear sky. 81-year-old Dan Jenkins, the Twitterizing dean of the world’s golf writers, quipped “I’ve never seen that before, but this is only my 60th Masters.”

If Mickelson had lost by one shot, everyone would be making a big deal of the incident today; since it betokened nothing and is already being forgotten, let it serve an instructive lesson in how superstitions come about. But let’s also note that a stamen is the male reproductive organ of a plant. Apparently Phil has less trouble getting distracted by such things than some other golfers [rimshot].

I never liked the old Phil Mickelson much. Somehow, and I’m not at all sure this was ever a fair perception, he seemed to combine smugness, haphazard stewardship of his talent, and weak nerve; that he was liked by American galleries from the beginning only made matters worse. It was a source of wholly non-patriotic delight to me when fellow “lefty” Mike Weir beat him to a major-championship victory. (Weir, Mickelson, and New Zealander Sir Bob Charles, the only lefty swingers to win majors, are all right-handed in everyday life; the world is still waiting for a truly lefty Lefty.)

But in the face of the Tiger era, Mickelson buckled down, worked hard, and found another gear, without sacrificing his family, his cheerfulness, or his relationship with the fans. With each passing year he looks more impressive, more like someone who stands as a living rebuke to Woods—to say nothing of the Sergio Garcias, the David Duvals, and the Notah Begays, the players who had the innate gifts to match Mickelson’s tournament record but haven’t closed the deal. It’s doubly endearing that Lefty has been quietly trying to minimize the bathos of his wife’s and mother’s cancer diagnoses, subtly discouraging reporters from whispering at him as though they were huddled in the rear pews of a funeral Mass. (Journalists don’t equate cancer with death; they think it’s much worse.)

Before the fourth-round tee time, I heard some mike-wielding goofball actually approach Mickelson and attempt a lurid thumbnail sketch of a tumour-ravaged, vomit-flecked Amy feebly rising from her sickbed to watch Sunday’s golf from home. Mickelson, forgiving and full of pep, pointed out that the Mrs. had joined him in Augusta and would be in the gallery that very day. And so she was. She looked great.

Masters wrap: Left behind by Phil

  1. And no mention of Mickelson's spectacular shot on the 13th hole from between two trees? It simply was a well-deserved victory by a golfer that dominated the field in the end. Not sure what you're nattering on about Cosh but don't give up your day job (whatever that is).

    • What the heck is your problem? Are you one of those who get mad when ideological leftists aren't the only ones making blog posts on here?

    • But that is the kind of insane shot he has been trying for years, and which has surely cost him many other championships. This time it came off, and he looks like a genius!

      Mickelson's big sloppy grin just annoys the heck out of me, but I would rather him win than many others. Mike Weir looks the beneficiary of one lucky round at this stage – when will he ever come close to winning something again?

      • The thing is, we no longer expect Mickelson to blow that shot.

        • He missed the putt. He could've hacked the ball out on the fairway and gotten up and down with the same result.

          But what a shot!

  2. I'm convinced someone threw the stamen. Shocked that they didn't go to a replay to see if it was flicked in from the gallery. Scanning the gallery behind Phil for a grimacing Rachel Uchitel might be worth some effort.

    His Birdie putt on 12 was when i knew he would win and the second on 13 convinced everyone else, but he has always been a great scrambler. Woods flubbing a tap-in was just icing on the cake.

    • I had the same thought. But honestly…you couldn't have placed the thing better. How someone could have thrown it without being seen and managed to get it to flutter right onto his line…

      Just glad that Tiger didn't win.

      • 'if someone threw that it will be the best shot of the day' – david fehrety

      • A pure fluke!, originally meant only to distract, if that's not bad enough.

      • nuh!

  3. Mickelson had a very Tiger-like final round. He looked like he was in trouble on a lot of holes. But he managed to save himself, and get birdies when needed. Only golfers with amazing talent can get away with such inconsistent play and still dominate. Oh, and those wide fairways always help, too. And a compliant field! (cough. Westwood).

  4. The scrambling these guys did (Tiger included) was absolutely breathtaking. It's almost more exciting than watching perfect shots. The great golfers don't just separate themselves when they have their 'A' games but when they have B and C.

  5. Did any of you record the flight of the stamen? I did! It was propelled horizontally to the ground for some considerable distance, as in yards! Divine intervention? Gallery, officials, caddies, who had most to gain? Golf has lost some of its integrity of late! Sad!

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