Mickelson is a Major Champion

By Associated PressApril 11, 2004, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Phil Mickelson's agonizing pursuit of a major ended Sunday at the Masters when he made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, a spectacular conclusion to a back-nine duel with Ernie Els.
 
Gone is that ugly streak of being 0-for-42, as a professional, in golf's biggest events. Gone are questions about Mickelson's game and whether it could stand up to the scrutiny of a major championship.
 
He delivered a command performance to the very end, with two birdies on the final three holes for a 3-under 69 that gave him a one-stroke victory over Els.
 
The putt curled into the back of the hole, setting off an enormous cheer. Mickelson jumped and thrust his fists, then kissed his ball when he plucked it from the cup.
 
'Oh my God!' he said as he walked off the green and into the arms of his wife and three children.
 
Until Sunday, he was known as the best player to have never won a major.
 
Now, he's simply one of the best in the game.
 
His awesome skills were on full display along the back nine at Augusta National, and they had to be. Els was flawless, making two eagles in his round of 67 that looked as though it would be enough to get the green jacket he covets, and the third leg of the Grand Slam.
 
But Mickelson was more determined than ever.
 
He rattled off three straight birdies to stay in range, caught Els with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th and then had the stage to himself on No. 18.
 
Despite a half-dozen close calls in the majors, Mickelson had never come to the final hole with a share of the lead. He never had the final say.
 
On this day, he refused to let his chance get away.
 
He smartly played 3-wood off the tee to avoid the bunkers and hit his approach behind the hole. Mickelson got a huge break with Chris DiMarco blasted out of a greenside bunker and just beyond Mickelson's ball marker, giving him the line on the biggest putt of his life.
 
'I just couldn't believe that ball fell in there,' Mickelson said.
 
Before walking into the scoring hut to sign his card, Mickelson held daughter Sophia and said, 'Daddy won. Can you believe it?'
 
Mickelson, who shot a 31 on the back, finished at 9-under 279. Mike Weir, whose victory last year made him the first southpaw to win the Masters, slipped the green jacket on the most famous Lefty in golf.
 
It was a bitter end for Els, who now knows how Mickelson has felt all these years. The big South African did nothing wrong over the final 12 holes, salvaged four crucial pars along the way and it still wasn't enough.
 
'I think Phil deserved this one,' Els said. 'He won this one. He didn't lose it like some of his other ones. Full credit to him.'
 
K.J. Choi holed a 5-iron from 220 yards on the 11th hole for eagle, kept his hopes alive with a 40-foot birdie putt on the 13th but wound up with a 69, three shots behind.
 
Tiger Woods was long gone before the fireworks started. He made a double bogey - this third of the tournament - on the 13th hole and shot 71, leaving him 11 shots out of the lead in a tie for 22nd, his worst finish ever at the Masters.
 
Woods now has gone seven majors without winning, and he has played his last five over par.
 
But this Masters didn't need him to deliver the drama.
 
With aces and eagles, so many spectacular shots along the back nine that the gallery was out of breath, it came down to Mickelson and Els in a duel as good as any at a major championship.
 
Els, playing two groups ahead of Mickelson, beat him on the par 5s with an eagle and a birdie.
 
Mickelson answered with an approach to the dangerous 14th that grazed the cup for a tap-in birdie, and a 15-foot birdie on the par-3 16th, a hole that has haunted him in the past.
 
'Baby!' Mickelson said as he trotted off the green, tied for the lead with two holes to play.
 
Playing the final hole, Els hit into a bunker so deep he could only see the hazy sky. He blasted out and said, 'Be right!' and it stopped some 25 feet behind the cup. His birdie putt turned just left of the hole.
 
Els was on the practice green, preparing for a playoff, when he heard the loudest roar of the day.
 
Mickelson made the putt. Mickelson won the Masters.
 
'Having it be such a tough quest, struggle, journey ... it feels that much better,' Mickelson said.
 
He became only the fourth player to win the Masters on a birdie putt at No. 18.
 
Only two other players - Harry 'Lighthorse' Cooper (31) and MacDonald Smith (24) - had more PGA Tour victories than Mickelson's 22 without ever winning a major.
 
Some began to doubt it would ever happen, especially since Mickelson was coming off his worst season ever. A year ago, he nearly lost his wife, Amy, during a difficult birth of their first son.
 
He refused to start practicing until Jan. 1, determined to put last year behind him. Now, Mickelson can look forward to many more tries at majors, without the pressure of having to win his first.
 
'Get used to me, because I'm going to be back every year,' he told the Augusta National members in green jackets, just like the one finally draped over his shoulders.
 
It wasn't easy - not over the last 12 years, not over the last 12 holes.
 
Mickelson and DiMarco began the afternoon as co-leaders, but came running back to the field after a good start. Mickelson took two shots to get out of the bunker on No. 5 for double bogey, DiMarco sailed over the sixth green for a double bogey.
 
Suddenly, the Masters was as wild as ever.
 
Despite two sloppy bogeys out of bunkers, Els shot into the lead and took control with a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 7, then one of the purest shots of the day - a long iron that caught enough of the slope at No. 8 to feed down to 6 feet for an eagle.
 
That put the Big Easy in the lead, and set the stage for the typical high drama at Augusta National.
 
So much for the changes taking away all the excitement on the back. This was as thrilling a Sunday afternoon as there has ever been at the Masters.
 
Padraig Harrington made a hole-in-one on the par-3 16th and Kirk Triplett aced the same hole a few minutes later.
 
Sergio Garcia whet everyone's appetite by playing the final four holes in 4 under par - one of those an eagle from inside a foot on No. 15 - for a 31 on the back nine and a 66, the lowest score of this Masters.
 
Mickelson couldn't help but hear it all. First came the cheers for him - 'It's your year, Phil. Make it happen!' - one man shouted. Then came the roars from all corners of the course.
 
The last cheer was for him. That was a first.
 
Related links:
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  • TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

    ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

    Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

    Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

    Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

     This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.

     

    -NBC Sports Group-

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    Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

    By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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    Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

    By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

    SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

    He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

    The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

    He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

    “I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

    It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

    For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.


    Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

    In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

    Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

    For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

    “You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

    But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

    “At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

    In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

    His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

    As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

    “We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

    “Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

    It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

    Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

    “Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

    If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

    Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

    Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.

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    DeChambeau gets foursomes, fourball mixed up

    By Will GraySeptember 25, 2018, 3:31 pm

    SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Bryson DeChambeau is an accomplished player when it comes to match play, having captured the U.S. Amateur and starred on a Walker Cup team. But don’t ask him to explain the semantic difference between the formats in play at this week’s Ryder Cup.

    DeChambeau became crossed up Tuesday at Le Golf National when he was asked about the intricacies of foursomes play – better known to many Americans as alternate shot.

    “Fourball, foursomes, I always get those mixed up,” DeChambeau said. “It’s just easier for me to say alternate shot.”


    Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    Thankfully for DeChambeau, he still has some time to make a distinction between the two before the matches begin in earnest. And when they do, it’ll be fourballs for the morning sessions both Friday and Saturday, with foursomes in the afternoon – a change from the 2016 matches when DeChambeau was on the grounds at Hazeltine as a spectator.

    While the foursomes format brings with it added pressure in an already tense environment, one of the biggest concerns is how well players can adjust to using the ball of their partner on a given hole. DeChambeau is known to leave nothing to chance in his preparation, and he’s already circled that particular factor as he gets set to make his Ryder Cup debut.

    “It’s key because we want to be comfortable. Each player needs to be comfortable with the ball that they are playing,” DeChambeau said. “So for compatibility reasons, it’s one of the most important things out there in regards to alternate shot. It is the most important.”