Brendan Connor on whether Tiger Woods can win the title and the crowd at Augusta.
|Mickelson celebrates on the 18th green at Augusta [AFP]|
Phil Mickelson won his third Masters title and fourth Major crown in dramatic fashion while Tiger Woods could only ponder his mistakes and wonder what might have been.
Mickelson fired three birdies in four holes starting at the par-three 12th and hit an epic approach at 13, his view of the green blocked by a tree, on the way to a bogey-free five-under par 67 and a three-stroke victory over Briton Lee Westwood on Sunday.
The 39-year-old left-hander finished 72 holes on 16-under par 272 with Englishman Westwood settling for second, his best Major finish, by a stroke over American Anthony Kim with Woods and South Korean KJ Choi fourth on 277.
World number one Woods, in his first event after a five-month hiatus since his secret sex affairs were revealed to the world, has never won a major when trailing after 54 holes, although the 14-time Major winner made a mighty run.
Mickelson claimed a share of fourth on the all-time Augusta National Golf Club win list, half the record total of Jack Nicklaus and one shy of Woods and Arnold Palmer.
The American, wearing a pink anti-cancer ribbon on his cap, shared a tearful hug with wife Amy behind the 18th green as the crowd cheered.
She had been bed-ridden all week in her first travel to an event in 11 months.
The contrast was stark between fan favourite Mickelson, who took time away from golf to be with wife Amy and his mother as they fight breast cancer, and Woods, whose layoff came after a humiliating betrayal of wife Elin, with more than a dozen women claiming sexual affairs with him.
Kim, who began the day seven strokes off the pace, fired a final-round 65 to put himself in the hunt, hitting back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14, making eagle at 15 and another birdie at 16.
Mickelson, who eagled the par-five 13th and par-four 14th and barely settled for birdie at the par-5 15 in round three, birdied the 12th for a one-stroke lead but then landed his tee shot Sunday at 13 in the trees.
Mickelson’s ball had a path to the green but the shot left him standing behind a tree. 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 playing partner Lee Westwood of England.
Another birdie at the par-five 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.
Clad in his traditional last-round red shirt, Woods finished the front nine with back-to-back birdies to stand on nine-under, three off Mickelson’s lead.
Woods blasted his second shot off a tree at 11 on his way to a bogey, saved a par at 12 and birdied 13 but stumbled at 14, missing a six-foot birdie putt then botching a two-footer coming back for par.
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 left him too far back to be happy.
Asked to judge the week, Woods spoke only in golf terms, not in terms of trying to start down the road to redemption.
“I finished fourth. Not what I wanted,” Woods said.
“As the week went on, I kept hitting the ball worse. I only enter events to win. I didn’t hit it good enough.
“Consequently I’m not there.”
Choi began the back-nine drama with his fourth birdie of the day at the 10th to match Mickelson for a share of the lead at 12-under, completing a calm climb to the top of the leaderboard while paired with Woods for the fourth day.
After staying composed while rivals sprayed shots in the pines and water, Choi faltered with bogeys at 13 and 14.
A birdie at the 15th kept Choi a threat but he could not gain ground on the leaders.
Fred Couples, trying to become the oldest Major winner at age 50, fired a 70 and settled for sixth on 279.