Posts Tagged ‘Jack Nicklaus’

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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Got to give a big shout out to Tom Watson for a fantastic performance at the British Open over the weekend.

The man turns 60 years old in September and had hip replacement surgery nine months ago and he almost became the oldest person to win one of golf’s major tournaments.

You ever heard of  a guy called Tiger Woods? Yeah, Tiger didn’t even make the cut at Turnberry while Watson was trying to make golf history.

The oldest player to ever win one of golf’s four majors was Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship. Another famous victory was Jack Nicklaus’ 1986 triumph at the Masters when the “Golden Bear” was 46.

But here was Watson, pushing 60, needing to sink just one more putt to pull off one of the biggest accomplishments in sports history. I’m no golf fanatic but my news judgment knows no bias — a Watson win at Turnberry would have rivaled some of the biggest shockers in sports’ history.

As compelling as Woods’ 91-hole victory over Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines was — you may remember Woods played with a torn ACL and painful stress fracture in his right leg — a Watson win would have even dwarfed Woods’ memorable accomplishement. 

But Watson was unable to sink the 8-foot-putt on the final hole and that opened the door for Stewart Cink, who dominated the four-hole playoff to notch the biggest win of his career.

The sad thing for Cink is that when discussions about the 2009 British Open arise years from now, more people are going to be talking about Watson’s wonderful weekend than his own big victory. There will be many people asking, “Hey, who won that tourney?”

Judging from the classy way Cink acted during the awards’ ceremony, he’s fine with playing second fiddle to Watson during his own biggest moment. Here’s hoping Cink wins another major someday before his career ends.

The Idaho Statesman nailed the day’s amazing events with its Monday headline: Hook, line, Cinker.

Watson was sunk in the playoff but the five-time British Open champ, who was among the best golfers in the world from 1975-83, has no reason to feel ashamed. Sink the putt on 18 and the old guy prevailing over all the young turks would have prompted the headlines to rival the old 80s hit song by Huey Lewis and The News:

Hip to be Square.