Posts Tagged ‘Fred Couples’

The Masters began with the focus planted on the world’s best golfer. It ended with the planet’s second-best golfer as the center of attention.

That was quite a four days of golf turned in by San Diego native Phil Mickelson, who won his third green jacket with a splendid performance that included three rounds of 67 on the tough Augusta National course.

Adding to the big golfing performance was the emotions behind it as Mickelson’s wife (Amy) and mother (Mary) are both battling breast cancer.

Amy Mickelson hadn’t been seen at a golf tournament in the 11 months since she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She watched most of the Masters at a nearby residence but showed up to the course to catch the ending.

Phil Mickelson was as surprised as anyone that his wife had indeed made it out to the course. The two shared a great celebratory moment before Mickelson had to go sign his scoreboard.

Mickelson won the Masters with a 16-under-par 272, the lowest score by a Masters champ since a guy named Tiger Woods in 2001. Tiger’s return to action after five months away from the game resulted in a 277 total and a tie for fourth place. He didn’t come close to making his typical final-round charge.

Mickelson finished three shots ahead of Lee Westwood with Anthony Kim another shot behind in third. K.J. Choi was tied with Woods for fourth, while Fred Couples finished sixth at 279.

While he made many great shots during his tourney-winning performance, Mickelson’s best shot came on the par-5, 13th hole. He was backed up behind a tree well off the fairway and sent the ball sailing past the side of the tree and over a creek to land on the green and set up a birdie putt.

It was simply an amazing shot, one of the best Mickelson will ever shoot in his stellar golf career.

The guy who once was criticized for never having won a major tournament, suddenly has won four now. In fact, he’s only the eighth golfer to win three Masters’ titles. The only golfers to win more are legends Jack Nicklaus (six), Arnold Palmer (four) and Woods (four).

When they talk about the greatest golfers ever, the conversation always begins with Nicklaus, Palmer, Woods, Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan.

Mickelson still has more work to do to find his name associated with that group of five but his latest victory definitely places him in the conversation on the second level of the game’s best-ever golfers. That group includes legends like Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Gary Player and Walter Hagen.

Yeah, I have no problem saying “Lefty” will eventually be solidly considered as one of the Top 10 golfers to ever play the game. He’s become much more confident in the big events – remember all the meltdowns before winning his first major? – and is still in the prime of his career.

But when he looks back at his career after it is over and counts up all the titles, the 2010 Masters crown will be up there at the top of his list of accomplishments.

That was a legendary performance we just witnessed from Mickelson at Augusta National. And the family circumstances only add to its brilliance.

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Oh no, another Tiger Woods scandal is upon us.

Tiger still uses profanity. Oh my, the horror!

It’s beyond silly that people are getting worked up over the fact Woods used some salty language during Saturday’s third round of the Masters.

I have a little secret for you: Numerous baseball, football and basketball stars cuss, too.

I know, I know – next thing you know, I’ll tell you that NASCAR drivers and MMA fighters use naughty words too (duh!).

There’s nothing odd about a professional athlete using profanity during a highly competitive game or match. Happens all the time. Even happens during college sports — like the NCAA basketball tournament and major college football bowl games.

Hard for Tiger to know where CBS’ microphones are going to be during his 18-hole stroll around the golf course. His primary focus is on playing his round and, like any competitive athlete, he is going to have impulsive reactions to something good or bad that occurs.

Now if Tiger suddenly starts reciting some of his naughty text messages to his stable of mistresses after a bad shot, then go ahead and get worked up. But the expectation that he should only use choirboy language during a round at the Masters is silly.

Yes, I’m aware Woods professed that he planned to show more respect to the game of golf prior to his return to action. And yes, it would behoove him to do that since the sport does have more gentlemanly customs than team sports do.

But thinking that Tiger – or any other professional athlete – will never utter an expletive during a game or round is unreasonable. It happens – and will continue to happen.

Chad Campbell and Nathan Green both shot 80s during Saturday’s third round. I’d be willing to bet they weren’t uttering a lot of cheery words during their disastrous rounds. Of course, they don’t have CBS microphones near them at all times, either.

On the golf-playing side of things, Woods is tied for third at 8-under-par 208, four shots behind leader Lee Westwood. Phil Mickelson is one shot behind Westwood after a round that included back-to-back eagles. K.J. Choi is tied for third with Woods.

Fred Couples is still in the hunt in fifth place, five shots behind Westwood, entering Sunday’s final round.

Just in case we needed to be reminded that playing golf is his real specialty, Tiger Woods delivered in his first competitive round in five months.

This 18-hole return didn’t come at some nondescript PGA Tour course — it came at famed August National in the Masters.

Woods tallied two eagles and produced his best first-round score ever at the Masters with an opening 4-under-par 68 that has him two shots behind leader Fred Couples.

If this was a day to scrape off the rust of his golf game, what happens when Woods is fully back in the flow over the weekend?

I mentioned in Wednesday’s MrSportsBlog commentary that Woods didn’t suddenly lose his ability to play the game of golf. Nice of him to make me look good with a stellar opening round.

Woods’ competitive juices are part of what has made him one of the top golfers ever. His focus is impressive and his ability to come through under tough circumstances is legendary, topped by his 91-hole winning 2008 U.S. Open performance at Torrey Pines on a fractured leg.

So it shouldn’t come as a major surprise that Woods performed so well after his long layoff. Remember, the holes on the golf course haven’t been the problem as he went from popular icon to disgraced national butt of jokes over his string of extramarital affairs with women of questionable character and morals.

The golf course has always been a place where a Tiger on the prowl has excelled. Thursday’s return was no different.

If Woods was humiliated to be out in such a public setting after spending so much time away from the spotlight, it didn’t show.

It didn’t hurt that the gallery around the first tee greeted him warmly. Woods said in an ESPN television interview immediately after the round that he didn’t hear a single negative comment as he made his way around the course.

“It was unbelievable the whole day,” Woods told ESPN’s Mike Tirico at Augusta’s famous Butler Cabin. “I haven’t heard them cheer this loud in all my years here.”

Once Woods birdied the third hole, any remaining nerves seemed to dissipate. And it was clear the four-time Masters champ was en route to a good round when he eagled the eighth hole.

Woods scored a birdie on the ninth hole after an incredible shot placed him on the green and later scored his second eagle on 15.

You could see Woods’ frustration when he missed a birdie putt on 18 that would have left him one shot behind. He said afterwards in the ESPN interview that his goal was to try not to give any shots away. He gave one away on 18.

As for rust, Woods indicated he didn’t feel any, and cited the intense practice preparations leading up to his return.

“Depends on how serious you take your practice,” Woods said in reference to why his first competitive round in five months went so well. “I took them very seriously. I was grinding pretty hard for weeks

Woods previous best opening round at the Masters was a 70.

On any other day, the 6-under 66 by the 50-year-old Couples would have been the top story. Couples, the 1992 Masters champ, was relegated to secondary status by Woods’ return.

Same for 60-year-old Tom Watson, the two-time Masters champ (1977, 1981) who opened with a 67. You may recall Watson’s near-victory at the British Open last summer so it’s amazing to see him deliver such a good first round at August.

Even Phil Mickelson (67) received scant attention with his impressive opening round.

Yes, the day was about Tiger’s return. He was the big news on Thursday’s opening day of the Masters.

And at least this time, Tiger is the headline story for his golf play — and not because there’s another breaking report of revealing extramarital romps with some seedy skank.

Tiger hasn’t won the Masters since 2005, but if Thursday’s first round is any indication, he has a real shot at ending that drought on Sunday.