AUGUSTA: US golfer Phil Mickelson won his third Masters title and fourth major crown in a dramatic finish on Sunday while Tiger Woods could only ponder over his mistakes and wonder what might have been.
Mickelson shot a bogey-free five-under-par 67 to finish 72 holes on 16-under 272, defeating England’s Lee Westwood by three strokes, in an emotional victory for wife Amy, who has been battling breast cancer for nearly a year. “It has been an emotional year,” said Mickelson. “I’m very proud of the fight and struggle she has been through.”
Mickelson made a tearful embrace with Amy behind the 18th green as she had been unable to travel to events where he played until this week and had been bed-ridden until Sunday when she came to see him on the final day. “It means a lot to share some joy together,” Mickelson added, his voice cracking as he was presented the green jacket symbolic of Masters supremacy. “It’s something we will remember the rest of our lives.”
The contrast was stark between fan-favourite Mickelson, who took time away from golf to be with his wife and mother, and Woods, whose return this week from a five-month layoff came after a humiliating betrayal of wife Elin, with more than a dozen women claiming sexual affairs. Woods, whose wife did not attend, struggled to a finalround 69, sharing fourth with South Korean K.J. Choi on 277, one stroke behind third-place American Anthony Kim.
Mickelson claimed a share of fourth on the all-time Masters win-list, half the record total of Jack Nicklaus and one shy of Woods and Arnold Palmer. Mickelson fired three birdies in four holes starting at the par-3, 12th when he curled home a long putt. He then hit an epic approach at 13, his view of the green blocked by a tree. Mickelson’s ball had a path to the green but the shot left him standing behind a tree and he blasted the ball 205 yards off the pine needles and just three feet from the cup. While he missed the eagle putt, the birdie put Mickelson two atop Kim and Westwood.
Another birdie at the par-5 15th gave Mickelson a three-stroke edge. Westwood made a birdie at 17 to keep the pressure on until the final hole but Mickelson birdied the last to complete the emotional triumph, becoming the 19th winner in the past 20 Masters to play in the final pairing. Westwood, trying to become the first Englishman to win a major since Nick Faldo won the 1996 Masters, suffered another near-miss in his bid for a first major crown. Westwood was third in last year’s British Open and PGA Championship and third at the 2008 US Open.
Woods has never won a major when trailing after 54 holes, although the 14-time champion made a mighty run. Clad in his traditional lastround red shirt, Woods finished the front nine with back-to-back birdies. He dropped a 14-foot eagle putt at the par-5 15th, his fourth eagle of the week to match a Masters record but still four back of Mickelson. A birdie at the 18th was too little and too late. AFP
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