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A Win for the Ages (Ups and downs at Augusta)
National Review ^ | April 12, 2004 | Adam Daifallah

Posted on 04/12/2004 8:34:27 AM PDT by presidio9

What really defined this year's Masters golf tournament, which ended Sunday, was its emotional extremes. Not in a long time has one of golf's majors (or any sporting event, for that matter) taken fans on such an emotional rollercoaster, from extreme sadness to extreme joy, in such a short period of time.

With the hubbub of last year's controversy about Augusta National Golf Club's men-only membership policy all but a distant memory, this year had but one focus: golf. And after yesterday, few fans were left disappointed.

But before Sunday's joy, the sadness: The tournament opened Thursday with news of the death of Bruce Edwards, the long-time caddy of legendary golfer Tom Watson. Edwards, who had toted Watson's bag for three decades, had been fighting a very public battle with Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). Edwards's battle ended only hours before the first tee shot at Augusta. He was 49.

Edwards had become the darling of the golf world because of his determination to continue caddying despite a very visible deterioration. He was the real star of the 2003 U.S. Open, when his man Watson, now in the senior ranks, turned back the clock 20 years and contended in the early going. But by the end of last season, Edwards had to retire. The damage done by the progressive loss of his motor nerves became too great. Edwards continued to slide from there, dying only a year after the initial diagnosis.

Being the great champion that he is, Watson bravely played on last week but missed the cut, surely overwhelmed with emotion in the wake of his friend's death. But Edwards will not soon be forgotten, and Watson has vowed to continue raising awareness of ALS in his memory. (Also, a new book about Edwards's life has just been released by the esteemed sports writer John Feinstein.)

As if the news about America's favorite caddy weren't enough, Friday marked the end of a golfing era when Arnold Palmer drove down Magnolia Lane for the last time as a competitor. This was Palmer's 50th straight and final Masters. The 74-year-old is no longer able to contend or even come close to making the cut. In Palmer's post-round press conference Friday he admitted, with a tear in his eye, that his competitive spirit was as fiery as ever but that his septuagenarian body wouldn't let him play any longer. The ageing process had advanced too far and its toll too great for him to continue.

Despite his poor play, Arnie's Army was as big as ever as hordes of fans scrambled to catch one final glimpse of "The King" walking Augusta's lush fairways. Nobody wanted to see him go. But fans understood it was time. No golfer transcends time and class and creed like Arnold Palmer. No golfer has done more for the game than Palmer. It's impossible not feel a personal connection with the man. He was golfing royalty but at the same time such an everyman. Thankfully, Palmer has indicated that he will continue to participate in the Masters in some fashion, possibly as an honorary starter.

By the time weekend arrived, it was time to have some fun. By Sunday, heavy-heartedness had been replaced by a collective joy reminiscent of the days when players like Palmer and Watson were themselves winning the Masters.

There was something special in the wind blowing through the Georgia pines. Phil Mickelson, the left-handed star who reluctantly wore the dreaded title of "best player never to win a major," was in the hunt. Shaking that label had consumed Mickelson for years, and he had rededicated himself to golf in the off-season, trying to get the no-major monkey off his back. He seemed especially determined to win this time.

While many players of all ages and nationalities were in the hunt Sunday afternoon, in the end it came down to a duel between Mickelson, the southpaw from San Diego, and South African Ernie Els. Els played flawlessly, making two eagles, including one at the par-5 13th hole, and carding a stellar 67. After he finished, all he could do was watch. The pressure was on Mickelson, who needed a birdie at Augusta's storied 18th for the win.

It seemed inevitable that he would rise to the challenge. Mickelson was cracking a half-smile all week, even during the moments where the pressure was greatest. He was having too much fun out there. He knew it was his time. But as the fans quieted and the ball left his putter blade, it looked like the putt might be getting away from him. For a moment, just a tiny moment, it seemed as though the ball might break too much and miss on the low side of the hole. But somehow, perhaps fatalistically, it hit the left edge of the cup and dropped.

As he rather awkwardly jumped in the air for joy, the rest of America jumped with him. This was for real. It was a win for the ages, and maybe the most popular since Nicklaus's six and last win in 1986.

Mickelson's stunning and long-overdue first major capped off a rollercoaster week at Augusta, one that will not again soon be duplicated.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; US: Georgia
KEYWORDS: amymickelsonpoa; arniesarmy; augustanational; golf; marthaburke; philmickelson; themasters

1 posted on 04/12/2004 8:34:31 AM PDT by presidio9
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To: presidio9
Fantastic duel on the back nine Sunday. I thought Ernie would lock it up with that eagle, but Phil wouldn't quit.
2 posted on 04/12/2004 8:47:06 AM PDT by TheBigB ("She undercut the subtle nuance of my wiener joke." - Crow T. Robot)
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To: presidio9
Unbelievable. Two holes-in-one within minutes of each other (Harrington and Triplett). Els posting that 67 and waiting for Mickelson to take his shot at it. Garcia shooting that 66. And the amateur Wittenberg hitting even par, besting many of the pros at the premier event of golf.

I was happy for Phil Mickelson. The guy is a great player. Shooting nine-under and a back-nine 31 at Augusta in the Masters is the kind of thing us weekend hackers can only dream of. Mickelson showed that persistence and the never-say-die, will-to-win pays off. Just keep trying and put yourself in a position to win. Eventually you'll be rewarded.

His post-round interplay with the family was very touching. I liked how he brought his one little girl into the scorer's tent and had to gently take the pacifier out of her mouth for her to look at the camera and flash an endearing smile. But then right back to the pacifier. Very cute indeed.

3 posted on 04/12/2004 8:47:33 AM PDT by chimera
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To: presidio9; chimera; TheBigB
A golf course is a waste of good horse pasture.
4 posted on 04/12/2004 8:54:36 AM PDT by elbucko
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To: chimera; TheBigB
Agreed. This was the most exciting Masters in 20 years.
5 posted on 04/12/2004 8:56:24 AM PDT by presidio9 ("See, mother, I make all things new.")
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To: chimera
How could you not be rooting for Lefty to win yesterday??... How many times have you seen Mickelson putts lip out (like the bogey on #3) instead of drop in like the birdie on #18? Good for him, and great for golf... Martha Burke might have even been cheering.... (Though I doubt it)
6 posted on 04/12/2004 8:58:09 AM PDT by vrwinger
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To: vrwinger
FWIW, if it means no commercials at the Masters forever, I might even send Martha's goofy cause a check next year.
7 posted on 04/12/2004 9:00:43 AM PDT by presidio9 ("See, mother, I make all things new.")
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To: presidio9
I was so looking forward to this year's event. On the front nine, I was convinced that Lefty was going to blow it again - but he was NOT to be denied this year. You could see it in his demeanor. That green jacket was his to win this year.
8 posted on 04/12/2004 9:02:40 AM PDT by reegs
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To: presidio9
It was a joy to watch the entire tournament, especially Sunday.
9 posted on 04/12/2004 9:04:22 AM PDT by ImpBill ("America! ... Where are you now?")
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To: presidio9
Great post. Thanks! I was glad to see Mickelson win. Everyone in contention played very well Sunday; as someone said on the live thread yesterday, there were no goats, only heroes.

10 posted on 04/12/2004 9:06:16 AM PDT by Rummyfan
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To: elbucko
Go ahead, spoil our fun...

Geez, what a curmudgeon.

11 posted on 04/12/2004 9:11:58 AM PDT by chimera
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To: presidio9
Agreed... How much would the Masters bring in via PPV? I hope they never go there, but it would do well, no doubt...
12 posted on 04/12/2004 9:20:51 AM PDT by vrwinger
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To: vrwinger
Hey, I think he's great. To heck with all that crap about "the best player never to win a major". To win as much as he has on the tour speaks for itself. I know the players themselves consider winning a major championship to be the mark of a truly great player, and now Mickelson has that on the list as well.

Yes, the thought of a lip-out was on my mind when I saw him stroke that putt. The line seemed a little left and when it did that 180 around the cup, man, what a heart stopper. But it dove in there and gave him the win.

I felt bad for Ernie Els firing those eagles in there and coming up just a bit short. He's such a gentleman and class act. But he has his three major wins and probably will have some more, and he was happy for Phil.

That's what's fun about golf. Most of the players are gentlemen and genuinely nice people, the kind of folks you'd like to be your friend or hang out with. Not like some of these other sports that seem to have more than their share of self-important a-holes (e.g., basketball, baseball, football, etc.). Watching Mickelson at the end there with his wife and children makes you think he's got his head on straight when it comes to knowing what's important.

13 posted on 04/12/2004 9:22:59 AM PDT by chimera
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To: presidio9
Have left-handed golfers ever won the Masters back-to-back before?

And who now inherits the title of "best (active) player never to win a major"?

14 posted on 04/12/2004 9:41:17 AM PDT by kevkrom (The John Kerry Songbook: www.imakrom.com/kerrysongs)
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To: kevkrom

And who now inherits the title of "best (active) player never to win a major"?

15 posted on 04/12/2004 9:47:52 AM PDT by presidio9 ("See, mother, I make all things new.")
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To: chimera
Agreed... BTW, I wonder who the "Best player never to win a major" is this morning?? I think now that Mickelson's won the first, #2, #3 etc. will start to flow...

Phil seems like a regular guy... Family man, appreciative of place in life ("I do for a living what other people do on vacation.")... He just happens to have a cool job that pays him $1.17 million for a week at Augusta...
16 posted on 04/12/2004 9:47:57 AM PDT by vrwinger
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To: kevkrom
Have left-handed golfers ever won the Masters back-to-back before?

Mike Weir (last year) was the first lefty to ever win.

And who now inherits the title of "best (active) player never to win a major"?

My vote goes to Sergio Garcia.

17 posted on 04/12/2004 9:53:38 AM PDT by TheBigB ("She undercut the subtle nuance of my wiener joke." - Crow T. Robot)
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To: chimera
Go ahead, spoil our fun...

I half-heartedly apologize. It's a hangover from one of your own kind ruining Easter dinner by going on and on about golf. He doesn't play well, either.

18 posted on 04/12/2004 9:58:20 AM PDT by elbucko
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To: vrwinger
I think now that Mickelson's won the first, #2, #3 etc. will start to flow...

I hope so. I hope he doesn't do a David Duval and disappear from contention.

But I don't think he will. Phil's done a couple of things to his game that will keep him right up there. The first is mechanical. He seems to have much better control of his ball-striking, hitting fairways, stoning the approach shots, and having a good touch with that blade putter. The other is attitudinal. He manages his game and the course well. He's aggressive where he thinks he can get an advantage, but plays conservative when he feels there is more risk than justifies the reward. Hitting shots that take hazards out of play (a three-wood on no. 18, for example, taking the bunkers out of play), hitting into good positions on the greens, taking advantage of breaks (like reading DiMarco's line on the putt at 18). A few strokes here and there saved and/or gained makes all the difference in majors competition. I think he's learned the value of that, and won't waste shots taking chances when there is no reason to do so.

Then again, I'm just a hacker, so what do I know...?

19 posted on 04/12/2004 10:02:21 AM PDT by chimera
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To: elbucko
Ah. Okay, understood. No fun having someone bend your ear on a subject you have no interest in.

I make no claim to being any kind of a player. My goal is to break 80 on one of our local city courses this year. Came close last year (81) but dunking a shot on the last hole did me in. Choke...

20 posted on 04/12/2004 10:06:41 AM PDT by chimera
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To: chimera
His post-round interplay with the family was very touching.

Something I have never forgotten was Phil coming in second to Payne Stewart in the 2000 U.S. Open. Phil's wife was expecting their first child at the time, and was due to go into labor at almost any second. In fact, Phil had notified the the PGA that he might have to leave the tournament early if that phone call came in.

But it didn't, and Payne sunk his last putt in dramatic fashion to beat Phil. Then Payne walked over to Phil, took his face in both his hands and said that Phil's time would come, but that right then he really had the best thing to look forward to because, "You're going to be a father!"

Payne, of course, died in that bizzare plane crash just a few months later, and I have been waiting ever since for Phil's time to come. When it did, four years and two more children later, it was magical.

21 posted on 04/12/2004 10:14:18 AM PDT by Wolfstar (Kerry says Al-Sadr aligning with Hamas & Hezbollah is SORT OF a terrorist alignment.)
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To: reegs
By the way he kept smiling...and looking like he was enjoying every second of his round....you knew he was going to win it. A great win for a classy guy, though I would not have been upset to see Els win. It was a great weekend, including Arnie's last hurrah.
22 posted on 04/12/2004 10:32:49 AM PDT by Corporate Law (<>< -- Xavier Basketball - Perennial Slayer of #1 Ranked Teams)
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To: Wolfstar
Payne was right about that. A slight correction, that was the '99 Open (finishing on Father's Day that year) at Pinehurst, where Stewart made those unbelievable shots coming in to beat Phil by a stroke. Very disappointing for Phil, but Stewart was such a good player and colorful guy. A very tragic and untimely fate was his.

Fitting that Phil's oldest (Amanda), who was the one born that year, was who Phil scooped up into his arms as he came off the green at Augusta. He had the middle child (Sophia) with him in the scoring hut who waved to the TV camera through the window. Phil's wife held onto the youngest (Evan?) during the tumult of the 18th green, and that kid looked a little bewildered by it all. A very lovely family. Must be a hard life to lead with Dad traveling so much, but hopefully the rewards are worth it. A Master's Trophy and a million dollar payday will probably help toward that end. But I think they know where their real treasures lie.

23 posted on 04/12/2004 11:06:06 AM PDT by chimera
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To: chimera
Yes, you're right. 1999, not 2000. What is frozen in my memory is Payne taking Phil's face in his two hands and saying that it was Phil was the lucky one because he was going to be a father. I miss Payne Stewart.
24 posted on 04/12/2004 11:15:40 AM PDT by Wolfstar (Kerry says Al-Sadr aligning with Hamas & Hezbollah is SORT OF a terrorist alignment.)
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To: Wolfstar
Payne was another great player. That was a touching moment at the '99 Open. I liked Payne for his colorful flair and precise shot-making. I was greenside at no. 18 in '93 at the Memorial when Paul Azinger flopped in that bunker shot to beat Payne, and saw the look of shock and disappointment in his face. But he handled it with class and bounced back. Hard to believe that he's no longer with us. A very tragic ending for a good Scotsman and golfer. He left a wife and young children to cope with his loss and that is always a poignant thing.

Did you see the reaction of the crowd when Phil's putt dropped on 18? I mean, they were just delirious with joy. It would have been something to have been there in person to experience that. I've been to a few tournaments and its always a thrill when a crowd favorite like Nicklaus or Palmer drops in a birdie. The cheers are always deafening. I imagine this was something similar.

25 posted on 04/12/2004 11:48:13 AM PDT by chimera
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To: chimera
I did see the crowd reaction when Phil sank his putt. That was an enormously popular win.
26 posted on 04/12/2004 11:54:35 AM PDT by Wolfstar (Kerry says Al-Sadr aligning with Hamas & Hezbollah is SORT OF a terrorist alignment.)
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To: presidio9
Looking at Robin Williams all "enhanced", are you referring to Monty?
27 posted on 04/12/2004 12:17:00 PM PDT by vollmond
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To: chimera
Mickelson won, IMHO, for two reasons... One, he didn't let his concentration lapse after the 3 bogeys early, and Two, (like you pointed out), he played much smarter, even when he fell behind Els on the back nine... In the past, it seemed he was always taking unnecessary chances because he was trying to make up ground... Sunday, even when down 3, he stuck to his plan, played smart, and pulled it out... Wasn't it amazing how he got some breaks playing conservatively he never gets when playing aggressively??
28 posted on 04/12/2004 12:23:26 PM PDT by vrwinger
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To: Wolfstar
And what was Phil's response? He picked up that daughter, and took her into the scorer's tent with him. Phil Mickelson is a class act.
29 posted on 04/12/2004 12:39:41 PM PDT by presidio9 ("See, mother, I make all things new.")
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To: vollmond
Do you mean that's not Monty in that picture?
30 posted on 04/12/2004 12:41:36 PM PDT by presidio9 ("See, mother, I make all things new.")
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To: vrwinger
You're right about the concentration. He didn't come unglued when Els made those eagles. He just went up there and reeled off five birdies and did what it took to win. Hitting that three-wood off the tee at 18 was just brilliant. Took those bunkers out of play and put himself in the center of the fairway in a position to attack the pin. Better to be 20 yards back in the fairway than 20 yards ahead in the bunker or trees.

And speaking of great shots on a great day, how about a nod for South Korean player Choi on No. 11 holing out that 220 yard 5-iron for an eagle 2? Good stuff there. With my weak upper body strength I can barely hit a 5-iron 150 yards. But Choi is built like a brick sh*thouse with that compact muscular frame, so he just smacked it up there and dunked it in the jar.

31 posted on 04/12/2004 12:51:48 PM PDT by chimera
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To: chimera
Choi's eagle on #11 was nearly answered by an eagle on #14 by Phil, rolling it inches past the cup... That would have been something...

Also, did you notice Choi was playing with graphite shafted irons? I have never seen players at that level play graphite on irons before... Maybe he'll set a trend...
32 posted on 04/13/2004 3:54:40 AM PDT by vrwinger
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