Wednesday 14 April 2010 | The Masters feed

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Masters 2010: Phil Mickelson holds off Lee Westwood to claim third green jacket

Lee Westwood dared to wear Tiger red on the final day of the Masters like a major champion in waiting, but he couldn't quite act out the part.

 

It’s hard to remember any lines when the gunpowder is burning your eyeballs and the roars are coming at you like cannon fire.

It’s hard to remember any lines when your playing partner is tap dancing across Rae’s Creek like Mister America.

Phil Mickelson’s victory tore the heart out of this place. When the final putt went in for a round of 67, Mickelson paid his dues and then crossed the green to wife Amy, who is still recovering from breast cancer.

It is the first tournament she has been able to attend since last May and the pair hugged for 45 seconds. Mickelson could not hold back the tears, half of America could not hold back the tears.

Mickelson said afterwards: “It’s been an emotional year. I’m proud of my wife and the fighting struggle she’s been through.

“To come out on top in this tournament feels very emotional. It’s one of the best things we’ve been through. It’s been tough and to be on the other end and feel this kind of jubilation is incredible.”

What a performance it was from the man in black. Any up-and-down for Phil Mickelson was like popping a piece of bread in the toaster, but the shot he played on the 13th hole wrenched his third green jacket off the hanger. Mickelson’s ball lay on the pine straw, deep in the woods, the pin perched on a ledge just over the water 205 yards in the distance.

Oh no, groaned America, as Mickelson stared down the barrel of doom. This was no time for the freak show.

This was no time for the Mickelodeon to attempt another farcical highlights reel. Mickelson loaded the dice like the riverboat gambler that he is and played one of the shots of a stellar career.

The four-feet putt for eagle would have given Mickelson a three-shot lead over Westwood and Anthony Kim. Of course the great lunk missed it, but he had made the point. That’s the career of Dr Phil in a pine cone.

Westwood said afterwards: “His second shot into 13 was incredible. He’s been through a hard time recently and he deserves a break or two. I need to just keep doing what I’m doing.

“I’ve finished 3rd, 3rd, 2nd in my last three majors and there was a time when I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. So when I’m playing like this and contending for major championships I feel like a lucky man.

“There’s a tinge of disappointment but it doesn’t last long. Phil was saying in the cabin that he’s been that man too. It’s a question of persevering and one day I’ll be a major champion hopefully.”

In 18 of the past 19 Masters the winner has come out of the final group, but Mickelson’s touch gave him the edge yesterday. The Philharmonic blasted his tee shot into the trees on three consecutive holes around the turn and each time he made a par. It helps to have the hands of a surgeon preparing sushi.

Westwood cannot afford such extravagance. He pulled his opening tee shot into the left hand trees, hit a branch with his recovery shot and started the round with a bogey. Ooh, mind the azaleas. All day Westwood had trouble with his driver, usually the strength of his game, and he doesn’t have the hands to get away with it.

You wouldn’t normally say the same of Tiger, but at one point he was in danger of being made a fool of. Woods was leaving balls in bunkers, missing tiny putts and driving into fire hydrants. Just as we had written Tiger off, the errant one holed out with a short iron for an eagle at the 7th. Genius.

Up in the box Nick Faldo was urging caution. He said: “There comes a time when you have to put the reins on. If Phil recognizes that he could be the man.” Maybe Westwood was listening, but Mickelson has always ridden bareback. Padraig Harrington had wanted to be the first of the 'big four’ chasing Tiger to get to four majors, but Mickelson has beaten him to it.

A year ago Mickelson’s world was in shadow when both his mum and wife Amy were diagnosed with breast cancer. Mickelson’s voice cracked with emotion during his champion’s speech when he said: “It means a lot to share some joy together.”

“I love this place,” said Mickelson and over the years we have learned to love Mickelson. The man who used to be the butt of Woods’s jokes is now standing on the moral high ground, a great champion and a decent man.

 
 
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