Mickelson masters Augusta for third time

This was Phil Mickelson’s tournament, no matter what you were told by nearly every media outlet in the days leading up to the first tee shot at the Masters.

Since his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 months ago, Mickelson hadn’t been the same golfer. He wasn’t even the same person.

When a world crumbles around you, it’s impossible to revert back to normalcy.

So it was a special moment when Amy Mickelson stepped onto a golf course for the first time since her diagnosis to watch her husband in one of the game's most prestigous tournaments. And it’s fitting that Phil upstaged Tiger in Woods' return to competitive golf — not only in their play on the course but also in how they handle trying times in their very different personal lives.

While nothing was wrapped up until Mickelson landed his approach shot onto the green at 18, his incredible shot over Rae’s Creek from the pine straw on the par-5 13th essentially won Lefty the green jacket. Sending the ball narrowly through the trees and onto the green, Mickelson did it his way — aggressively and fearlessly. It was yet another risky shot taken by a player who has been punished so many times both on the course and in the media for getting too careless with his array of talent. But playing it safe was never part of Mickelson’s game.

And it wouldn’t be in the final round on Sunday, when golf was never more than just a game.

He settled for birdie on the 13th and carded another birdie on the par-5 15th to open up a three-shot lead and never lost control. He finished at 16 under par — five under on Sunday.

No matter what is said otherwise, it’s killing Tiger that Mickelson is wearing the jacket right now. Sure, it’s eating him alive that someone other than him is wearing it, but the fact that Mickelson is the one Sunday evening makes it even worse. Never will you see these two dining together — or sharing secrets to a successful marriage.

But that’s what could be great about this rivalry if we consistently see the two at the top of the leader board on Sundays in major championships throughout the next decade.

I’ve always held the belief that Mickelson is as talented a golfer as Woods; he simply lacked the killer instinct and had the tendency to commit a costly error — usually hitting too big of a club in being overaggressive. So my adamancy that Mickelson could compete for the Grand Slam or even give Woods serious competition in the four majors annually had been rather absurd in the last decade as Woods has proven to be the greatest golfer since Jack Nicklaus.

Many wondered if we would ever see the Tiger-Phil showdowns on tour, or at least in major championships, much like golf had with Nicklaus and Palmer, tennis had with McEnroe and Connors and the NHL will have for years with Sid and Ovie.

But with Mickelson looking as determined as ever in his Masters victory and Tiger back on tour — and judging by the reaction of the gallery this week, as if nothing had happened off the course in the last five months — can these two take golf to even greater heights?

Hopefully we’ll start to get the answer at the U.S. Open in June, where Woods will be chomping at the bit to really show that he is back.

But for now, it’s about Mickelson adding at least one positive chapter to an emotional season-long story.

And for the entire Mickelson family, hopefully there are many more.

Follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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