Lefty Claims His 3rd Green Jacket

By completing the four rounds at Augusta National in a blistering -16 272, outlasting Lee Westwood by 3 shots and Anthony Kim by 4.  It was an amazing round for Mickelson, playing a bogey-free round of 67.  He started with 7 straight pars before a birdie on 8.  But what held this round together was that he was able to scramble for pars after bad tee shots on difficult par 4s 9, 10, and 11.  Those are 3 of the hardest holes on the course, especially 10 and 11 and are oftentimes messed up from the fairway.  Then he birdied the signature 12th hole just like in 2004 and then hit a shot for the ages between two trees to the green on 13.  He biffed the eagle putt but wasn’t deterred by it.  When he birdied again on 15 to Westwood’s par he pretty much had it.  Just an amazing round.

One can’t help but feel a bit for Lee Westwood.  This is the 3rd straight major he comes in either 2nd or 3rd and he also had a near miss of the ’08 US Open.  He didn’t have his best day today but still certainly could have won if not for the back 9 that Mickelson had.  After all, -13 is usually more than good enough at a major.

One of the rising stars of the game is Anthony Kim, and he showed some that promise today, going out and shooting a 65 that would’ve had him square in contention if not for, again, Lefty shooting 67.  As this guy continues to improve, particularly improve in limiting his bad holes and bad days, he will be a force to be reckoned with.

Fred Couples looked at times like he might be able to out-geezer Nicklaus ’86 but it was his turn to have an awful Amen Corner to dash his chances.  Still, it was a great effort and nice to see him in contention again.  One cannot help but wonder if he would’ve had a few more majors than the ’92 Masters if not for his balky back.

Naturally most people will want to talk about Tiger Woods, perhaps even as much as the champion.  Indeed, a lot of people will want to over-analyze meaningless crap and I will try to avoid that.  I thought his erratic play this weekend shows just about as well as anything how great a player he is.  That might sound absurd but think about it.  He was taking swings, especially on Sunday, that just looked awful.  He was hitting duck hooks and sky balls off the tee.  He struggled with distance control on his short irons and his chipping.  He 3-putted from 8 feet on 14.  And he still shot -3 69 for the day and was -11 for the tournament, finishing tied for4th.  One assumes he’ll have those uncharacteristic miscues rectified by the 3rd weekend of June at Pebble Beach and the rest of the field could be in serious trouble if I am correct.

But I hope Tiger doesn’t overshadow Phil here as the champion deserves the spotlight, both for what his family has gone through the past year with his wife’s breast cancer and also of course for winning the tournament.  3 titles at Augusta brings him even with the likes of Demeret, Snead, Player, and Faldo and behind only Nicklaus, Woods, and Palmer.  Good stuff as always from Augusta.


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