Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Master of the Masters: 2004
For the next three days, we will be rolling out a small series called "Master of the Masters," highlighting some of the best and most clutch performances in the history of this great tournament. Today we focus on Phil Mickelson's breakout win at the 2004 Masters.
As the day started on that Sunday in '04, it seemed that Phil Mickelson was going to give yet another major championship away. Lefty was in prime position to claim a Masters that continued to elude him, but he went out in 38 shots in the final round, making the turn with little hope.
It had been an interesting career for Phil. Before that Sunday at Augusta, Mickelson had finished alone in third place three straight years at Augusta National, and had 17 top-10s in majors throughout his career. It looked like the southpaw might never breakthrough, but then came the final nine holes at Augusta. A par on 10 and 11 wasn't much to write home about, but they're the toughest holes over the inward nine. Then came number 12, which Phil birdied. The roars began. Then he notched a four on 13, and followed that up with a birdie on 14. The lone disappointment over his incredible final nine holes was a par on the par-5 15th, but he kept at it with a birdie at 16, a par on 17, and then onto the 18th, where the man that could never close out majors had to close out this one.
He hit a good tee shot, and a solid second shot to about 14-feet. He stalked the putt, hit it, and for a moment, looked like he'd missed it left. But for some reason that day, the golf gods had forgotten about their curse on Phil Mickelson, and as we say in the golf world, the hole made a nice catch. Left lip, disappear, leap in the air, thanks for coming.
It was really an incredible story, considering how much pressure Phil had at every major at this point. He'd go into these as the story, and when he didn't perform, he'd become an even bigger story because people had labeled him the best player to never have won a major. For this week, at Augusta National, he stopped thinking about all that, played smart golf, and beat Ernie Els at the Masters.
It was a great run, and super fun to watch, especially for me, because I was huddled up with my entire immediate family around a little television in my aunt's lake house in Texas. We were there visiting family, but no way were we going to miss Masters Sunday, especially with Mickelson in the hunt. He cashed the putt, and we all erupted. It was a memory I won't soon forget either.