Ten years after he first finished in the top three at a major, Phil Mickelson finally did it. In those 10 years, he was passed in the march to the majors victory circle by a long line of first-timers.
Lets see, starting with the Masters, there was Tiger Woods, Mark OMeara and Mike Weir. The U.S. Open saw Corey Pavin, Steve Jones, Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk in the victory celebration. Tom Lehman, Justin Leonard, Paul Lawrie and David Duval won British Opens. In the PGA, Mickelson had to look at Mark Brooks, Davis Love III, Vijay Singh, David Toms, Rich Beem and Sean Micheel march by him. The ultimate insult had to be when a rookie, Ben Curtis, won the British Open last year to get a major before Phil finally made it.
Mickelson has his major now, finally winning the Masters in a scintillating Sunday duel. He won it in a manner totally befitting a major champion, nosing out another major champion, Ernie Els, who shot a 67. Phil shot a 31 on the back nine Sunday and won it with a birdie on the final hole.
His resume is littered by almosts, as well as other entries that merely look good on paper. All, however, contributed to the legend, one that now is forgotten. He is no longer the best player never to win a major. At age 34, he has won one. And with the season hes having, he well could win another this year.
The almosts: 1994 PGA (third) - Mickelsons first top-three finish, though this was the year Nick Price stormed through Southern Hills to make a shambles of the field. Price beat runner-up Corey Pavin by six, 24-year-old Mickelson by seven.
QUOTE - Im going to take him (Price) skiing next year, said Mickelson, who was involved in a skiing mishap the preceding winter and had a metal rod inserted in his leg.
1995 MASTERS (T7th)' Mickelson was in the mix all the way until the final day, starting Sunday only one shot out of lead. A double bogey at the par-3 6th scuttled his chances. He shot 73 to tie for seventh, at 24 he was the youngest to be in first place (tied for the lead after the first round) since Seve Ballesteros in 80. Final result: Mickelson loses by six.
1995 U.S. OPEN (T4th) ' Now 25, he was only one shot out of the lead with three holes to play, but a double bogey at 16 was the killer yet again (he played the 16th in 6-over for the week). He went on to shoot 74 and tied for fourth, four shots behind Corey Pavin.
QUOTE ' Im giving myself opportunities. If I give myself enough, Im going to break through.
1996 MASTERS (third) ' The Nick Faldo-Greg Norman Masters when Faldo overcame Normans six-shot lead to start the final round, finally marching to the green jacket. Mickelson had opened Thursday with a 65, but Norman shot 63. In the end, Mickelson finished six back.
QUOTE ' My heart goes out to him (Norman). I just hope it doesnt happen to me.
QUOTE - When I had opportunities to get it going, it just stalled the last three days If I can keep putting myself in that position, the odds say Ill break through sometime.
1999 U.S. OPEN (second) ' His best chance yet for a major, Phil lost this one by a single shot after Payne Stewart made a 20-footer on the final hole at Pinehurst. Stewart was putting for par after a lay-up from the rough. Mickelson was ahead by one at 16, but Stewart rolled in 25-footer at 16 for par and Mickelson missed an eight-footer for bogey. Stewart regained the lead at the par-3 17th with a tee shot to four feet, while Mickelson missed his birdie putt of eight feet.
QUOTE - I think it will be interesting to see if Im able to break though when I get in this situation again. And it will be interesting to see how long it takes me to get back in this situation.
2001 MASTERS (third) ' In the final pairing with eventual winner Woods Sunday, but he failed to get it up-and-down for par from either of the par-3s on the front. Mickelson, now 30, missed a half-dozen putts inside six feet over the final 30 holes. The 16th was the big blow ' one behind Woods, their tee shots landed just seven inches apart. But Woods shot funneled down to 25 feet, while Mickelsons stayed on top 40 feet from the flag. Mickelson three-putted and eventually lost by three.
QUOTE - When I look back on this week, if Im going to win with Tiger in the field, I cant afford to make the mistakes Ive been making.
2001 U.S. OPEN (T7th)' Just two shots behind after third round, Mickelson missed four of the first seven fairways in the final round to shoot 75 and lost by six to Retief Goosen.
QUOTE ' Im just tired of beating myself up after each one. If I didnt have a shot at winning, I would be much more miserable than I am now.'
2001 PGA (second) ' Along with the 99 Open, Mickelsons best chance to win a major. Down by a stroke, it looked like a playoff on the par-5 72nd hole when he reached the green in two while David Toms was out in the fairway after laying up. But Toms pitched to eight feet and make the putt for birdie and the win. Mickelson caught his foe three times in the last round but could never edge past him. Toms eventually squeezed ahead when Mickelson three-putted from 50 feet at the 16th.
QUOTE - Everyone talks about me trying to win a bunch of majors, and I still cant past the first one.
2002 MASTERS (third) ' Mickelson birdied the first hole Sunday to stand three shots behind Woods, but Woods birdies No. 2 and wins going away.
QUOTE - Every tournament, every major is an opportunity, and throughout the four days I played very solid golf, but I didnt have that explosive spurt to vault me up the leaderboard.
2002 U.S. OPEN (second)' Saturday, Mickelson strung together six birdies in an 11-hole stretch, culminating at the 17th, to challenge for the lead. But leader Woods birdied the 15th and 16th moments later to regain a four-shot lead and Mickelson never again seriously challenged.
2003 MASTERS (third) ' Mickelson shot 68 Sunday, his best final-round score in any of his 12 Masters, but was beaten by Mike Weir and Len Mattiace. He finished just two shots out of the playoff.
QUOTE - (after wife Amy endured a difficult delivery with their third child) You cant look at success in wins and losses. You have to look at it in your own terms.
I feel very comfortable going into major championships. I know if I play well, Ill have a chance.
2004 MASTERS ' Mickelson wins! After 46 tries at a major victory without success, Mickelson wins!
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