BBC News – Apr 9, 2006 – Phil Mickelson beat South Africa’s Tim Clark by two shots to win his second Green Jacket in three years at Augusta.
The American posted a three-under 69 to get to seven under for the tournament, and could even bogey the last without prompting any undue panic.
Earlier, Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal had shot the round of the week, a 66, to post the target at four under.
Also on that score were Americans Chad Campbell, Fred Couples and Tiger Woods, and South African Retief Goosen.
The 35-year-old Mickelson took a one-shot lead into the storm-delayed final round, having bogeyed the last hole of his third round.
And while Chad Campbell, Couples, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Rocco Mediate all made good starts to create a logjam at four under, Mickelson had to wait for his first birdie.
Mickelson shot an easy 69 – he didn’t struggle at all. But when it came at the 7th he followed it up with another at the 8th. And then his main rivals started to go backwards.
Playing partner Couples, wonderful from tee to green, missed a host of chances to keep apace, while up ahead the likes of Woods and Vijay Singh could not buy a putt.
Couples, at 46, was aiming to become the oldest player to win a Green Jacket, 14 years after winning his first. He would have been a hugely popular winner but his putter just would not follow the script.
He said: “If I had made the one at the 14th I might have made Phil work harder, but he played very well. He shot an easy 69 – he didn’t struggle at all.”
The 40-year-old Olazabal, however, was rolling back the years. A superb eagle-three on the 15th took the Spaniard to five under and within touching distance of a third Green Jacket.
But a nervous first putt at 16 led to a three-putt bogey and a return to four under.
Goosen, playing typically steady golf, joined him there soon after but is was already apparent that four under was not going to be enough to stop Mickelson.
The final group on Sunday provided the Masters champion once more
The Californian, who played with two drivers in his bag, by now had added regulation birdies at the long 13th and 15th to go four clear.
Woods, the defending champion and world number one, threatened briefly but saw eagle chances come and go at the par-fives and then three-putted the 17th. The huge putt he holed for birdie on 18 was greeted with an ironic smile.
But is was good enough to improve the four-time Masters champion’s score to four under and a tie for third with Olazabal and Goosen.
Couples – playing in the final pairing that provided the Masters champion for the 16th year in a row – would later join this trio.
One shot behind them were Angel Cabrera of Argentina and Fiji’s Singh, who led after the first round. Completing the top 10, on his own on two under, was American Stewart Cink.
Spain’s Jimenez, who went out in 33 but came back in 39, and Canadian pair Mike Weir and Stephen Ames were tied for 11th on one under.
South Africa’s Ernie Els, however, will be less happy. The world number five, a two-time runner-up here, was in great shape at the halfway stage but struggled after Saturday’s weather interruption, finishing way down the leaderboard.
I knew it was going to be a tough day – but in the end, it was real fun and I ended up playing well
But his compatriot Clark should be delighted with his best finish in a major, particularly as he claimed second on his own by chipping in from a bunker at the last.
The best-placed British player was David Howell. The Englishman finished in a tie for 19th on two over par, one shot ahead of Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, who crashed out of contention thanks to a 77.
The most spectacular crash was not Clarke’s, though. Mediate went from joint leader to nowhere by taking 10 on the short 12th. An old injury had flared up by then and he put three balls in the lake.
But the day belonged to Mickelson, the man who for so long carried the tag of “best player never to have won a major”. He has now claimed three of the last nine and the last two in succession.
In fact, he cannot stop winning. Last week he triumphed in Atlanta by a remarkable 13 shots. Nobody since Sandy Lyle in 1988 had come to Augusta on the back of a victory and won again.
“I knew it was going to be a long, tough day. But in the end, it was real fun and I ended up playing well,” Mickelson said.
And with the new rankings released on Monday, he is sure to be made the world’s number two.
The golfing public, particularly the American golfing public, could be finally getting the battle for number one that they have craved since the halcyon days of Jack Nicklaus v Arnold Palmer.
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.