Only at Augusta


It will play out again Sunday at 7 or so in the evening, this scene deep in the pines which occurs once a year, every year. Youre walking up 18 and your mind is on overload, what with all the possibilities in play that could occur before the next 10 minutes are finished. Behind the green, beside the green, up and down the fairways, people are in a high state of agitation, waiting to see how ' if? - you will eventually get it done.
Deathly silence is just as likely here as seismic roars. You are battling with every fiber within you to keep your focus on what you have to do. You have to make the muscles execute, the brain to calculate. This is the 72nd hole of the Masters, my friend.
For some champions, it all is just too much. They manage to hold it together until the very end, then break down in sobs. Remember Tiger Woods winning his first in 1997? Remember an emotionally distraught Ben Crenshaw as he tapped in the winner in 1995, then doubled over in tears as caddie Carl Jackson reached out to steady him?
I let it all go, Crenshaw said. I couldnt wait any longer.
The heroic putts that have occurred in just the last 20 years could fill volumes. Remember Sandy Lyle sinking the 10-footer in 1988 to defeat Mark Calcavecchia? Ian Woosnam in 1991 making the 6-footer to turn back Jose Maria Olazabal? Mark OMearas 20-footer in 98 that sent away David Duval and Fred Couples? How about Phil Mickelson rolling in the 18-footer last year that made Ernie Els a bitterly disappointed loser?
It was an experience that we don't get in golf very often as players, Mickelson said. I would sometimes wonder what it would be like for a basketball player on the court with 15,000 people yelling, how loud it would be. And it was very loud last year.
It was an experience I'll never forget. Bones (caddie Jim Mackay) and I reminisced playing the back nine today ... It was just a very cool experience that I'll always remember, and every time I come back here, I'll always relive it.
It was the same in 2001 for Woods, who rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt when just a par would have done the trick. That victory was the fourth consecutive major ' the Tiger Slam. He was in a state of shock, then quietly went to the side of the green and pulled his cap over his face.
I was in such a zone today, said Tiger after it was over, working so hard on every shot. Then (after making the putt) I walked over to the side and I just started thinking, You know, I don't have any more shots to play. I'm done - I won the Masters.
You know, it was just a weird feeling, because when you are focused so hard on each and every shot, you kind of forget everything else. When I didn't have any more shots to play, that's when I started to realize what I had done - I won the tournament. And I started getting a little emotional, trying to pull it together. That's why I put the cap over my face, to pull it together, so that when Phil made his putt, I was able to shake his hand.
It was a feeling that Woods had never experienced before.
I've done it before - I've cried after wins. I've cried after defeats. But I've never had that feeling before I focused so hard on just that one golf shot and that's it, that I finally realized, I had no more to play. That's it. I'm done.
For some reason, my emotions started coming out and I started experiencing and reflecting on some of the shots I had hit, some of the big putts, and, I don't know, a lot of different images came by, came through my head real quick, like the leaderboard, watching David, hearing the roars, watching Phil make putts. A lot of different things went through my head at that moment.
Mike Weir won in 2003. That final hour was an extreme roller coaster, joy ' and anticipation ' coming upon him in waves.
There's just such tradition at this place, at Augusta National, said Weir. For myself, you've watched as a kid, I've watched Jack Nicklaus come through and shoot 30 on the back nine. You've seen all of the different scenarios pan out on the back nine.
When you're in that situation yourself, you hear the roars and you hear everything, everything echoes around out there, it's just a different feel. I don't know how to explain it. It's a much different feel than any other tournament there is. That's what makes it so special.
Its a rare kind of emotion, that sensation of being on the verge of winning, the feeling that you can win or lose the Masters with virtually every swipe of the club. Mickelson knows it oh-so-well now after he went on a birdie binge in the last seven holes to win last year.
There's a special feeling to be able to relive a victory walk up the back nine and to be a part of - not just to be a part of the tournament, but to have those memories of the shot that I pulled in the clutch. And to birdie five of the last seven was just a memory that I'll never forget.
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