AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Even sweeter than Phil Mickelson slipping into another green jacket was seeing his wife waiting for him behind the 18th green at Augusta National with tears streaming down her face.
Amy Mickelson had not been at a golf tournament since being diagnosed with breast cancer 11 months ago.
He had not looked the same ever since.
A shattered world seemed at peace in the fading sunlight Sunday at the Masters, where Mickelson made one last birdie for a 5-under 67 and a three-shot victory over Lee Westwood.
The conclusion was far more emotional than anyone expected.
Mickelson shared a long embrace with his wife behind the 18th green, and as he walked to the scoring trailer to sign for the lowest score at Augusta in nine years, a single tear trickled down his cheek to his lip.
“We’ve been through a lot this year. It means a lot to share some joy together,” Mickelson said, his voice cracking as he struggled to keep control. “It’s been such an incredible week, an emotional week. And to cap it off with a victory is something I can’t put into words.
“It’s something we’ll share for the rest of our lives.”
Determined to win one for his family, Mickelson made two remarkable par saves from the trees, seized control with a 15-foot birdie putt in the heart of Amen Corner and then made a gutsy play with a 6-iron off the pine straw and over Rae’s Creek on the par-5 13th to set up a birdie. It was the kind of shot that has brought Mickelson so much criticism for taking unnecessary risks.
There was simply no denying him in this Masters.
His final birdie only mattered on the scorecard, 16-under 272, the lowest by a Masters champion since Tiger Woods in 2001. Mickelson had this won as he walked up the 18th fairway to a massive ovation. He raised both arms when the putt fell, had a long embrace with caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay and then walked toward the scoring hut and into his wife’s arms.
Standing behind them was Mary Mickelson, his mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in July.
So ended a Masters unlike any other.
It began with Woods returning from a humiliating sex scandal that brought a sharp rebuke from Masters chairman Billy Payne and scrutiny of Woods’ behavior as he broke par all four rounds and tied for fourth, five shots behind.
It ended in tears for Mickelson and his wife — and in heartache for Westwood, who saw his best chance at winning a major end with too many missed short putts.
“Phil being the champion he is hit some great shots coming down the stretch,” said Westwood, closed with a 71 in this one for his best finish ever in a major. “He’s been through hard times recently, and he deserves a break or two.”
Anthony Kim closed with a 65, the best score of the tournament, and finished alone in third.