Phil Mickelson pulls off 'The Shot,' another Lee Westwood heartbreak and Anthony Kim's shooting star combine for a dramatic 2010 Masters
This is the latest installment of our Masters Rewatch series, in which we watch and recap the last 23 final rounds of the Masters while we’re working from home due to the coronavirus. What better way to get your Masters fix while in quarantine than by firing up YouTube and remembering all the stuff you might have missed from past Sundays at Augusta National?
Phil Mickelson flies under the radar about as well as the Goodyear blimp, but he somehow managed to do that on the eve of the 2010 Masters, even as his wife and mother waged personal battles with breast cancer. That's because the man who can sometimes blot out the sun with his enormous stature in golf, Tiger Woods, was getting all of the headlines, whether he wanted them or not.
In the bubble created by the high fences that surround Augusta National, Woods was making his return to the game 4½ months after a car crash outside his Florida home set in motion events that turned his professional and personal life upside down.
In his Tuesday press conference, a solemn Woods—still the No. 1 player in the world—apologized to his fellow pros for the unwanted scrutiny his turmoil caused them, acknowledged that he got away from the “core values” of his life and vowed to be more respectful of the game. (That latter point he’d find hard to uphold very easily.) Through all of the scrutiny of his character and his game that week, Woods remarkably managed to tie for fourth, and even had a brief glimmer of hope to contend on Sunday.
It was Mickelson, however, who everyone was talking about at the end. Then 39 and still living with his monumental collapse in the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, Phil went out in the final group, one behind Lee Westwood, and seized his third green jacket with a final-round 67. Along the way, he produced one of Augusta National’s greatest escapes from the trees at 13, and birdied 18, though the vibe was so much different than when he pulled it off for his first green jacket six years earlier.
The highlights, and there were many:
1.) The Sunday weather couldn’t have been much better, and the leader board matched it.
At 12 under, Westwood, who was ranked fourth in the world, thanks in big part to top-three finishes in the previous three majors, was alone at the top heading into the final round of a major for the first time in his career.
Beside him was Mickelson, third in World Ranking, who hadn’t been in a final group of a major since Winged Foot. Lefty was five shots back after 12 holes on Saturday, but did some fast moving with back-to-back eagles at 13 and 14.
In the twosome immediately in front of them were K.J. Choi and Woods at eight under. It was a fascinating pairing for a couple of reasons. They had played together the first three days and were still tied, and Woods was coming off blowing a final-round lead to Y.E. Yang at the PGA Championship the previous August. Many believed Choi would be the first South Korean to win a major, but it was the little-known Yang who stole the thunder of Choi (and Woods) at Hazeltine. If Choi made it back-to-back majors, those stacked driving ranges in Seoul might have to become skyscrapers.
And then there was happiest of storylines for nearly every Augusta patron and certainly Jim Nantz. The CBS anchor’s longtime buddy from the University of Houston, Fred Couples, was doing the unthinkable (well, except for Freddie and his languid swing). At 50, and after an opening 66, Couples entered the final round five shots back. A long hill to climb, but a dandy scenario, considering the Coolest Golfer on the Planet could become the oldest winner of any major.
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2.) We go to Nantz and Nick Faldo in Butler Cabin, and after a short setup they have to talk about Tiger’s potty mouth. Well, they didn’t have to, but credit CBS for doing it. It was a bit of a sign of the times, with the media treading the thin line of reverence for the player while acknowledging he has some issues to work out.
Nantz recounts that just as they went on the air on Saturday, they cut to Woods hitting his tee shot at the par-3 sixth. He hated the swing, and with sound so clear it’s as if he’s actually wearing the microphone, Tiger exclaims, “Tiger Woods, you suck! God d*****.” So much for respecting the game, as Nantz points out: “He said he was not going to be doing that anymore. It’s really disappointing.” (Woods will address this after the round in a rather uncomfortable interview with Peter Kostis.)
3.) How about this timing: After walking to the first tee amid warm but hardly raucous applause, Woods hits a terrible hook, dropping his club in the back swing, but Faldo is the only one to utter harsh words: “Wow, that was a mess.”
Woods’ drive is on the edge of the ninth fairway, and like some of us playing criss-cross on the home course, he has to wait for Adam Scott and Steve Flesch to walk past him down the hill on 9. Embarrassing. Tiger’s approach comes up short of the green and leads to a bogey that puts him five back. You could write him off, but that would be silly, right?
4.) Everybody, it seems, is hooking it left (or in Mickelson’s case, slicing) at No. 1. From the trees, Westwood makes bogey (he’s 14 over for his career on the hole), Phil saves par (one of a few great up-and-downs on the day), and they’re tied at the top.
It’s about this time Faldo has a little story for us. He happened to be in the Champions locker room on Sunday morning, and who does he encounter? Mickelson. He’d gone out to practice, came back in, stripped down to just a robe (TMI!) and ordered a Masters club sandwich. “That’s a little scoop from the Champions locker room,” muses Nantz, who’s no doubt a little envious that he didn’t have the access for that nugget.
5.) Back to Tiger’s travails. He slices his second shot at the par-5 second in the right greenside bunker, and then shovels the first blast and leaves it in the finely crushed granite. Looking like a big number on an easy hole—until the superb next shot goes to tap-in range and he saves par.
Tiger, by the way, is sporting shades. And they’re huge. Like something you’d wear cruising your Maserati on the Italian coast. It’s not until later that we find out they’re not because his future’s so bright, but for the pollen, which has been especially potent this year. About a minute is spent on discussion of allergies.
6.) Since we’re going on like it’s New York Fashion Week, how about Anthony Kim’s belt buckle? Just call him “AK,” because those letters are BIG on a buckle so sparkly and large they’d award it on WWE. It’s remarkable that he can actually swing with that trophy around his waist, but this is AK, maybe the cockiest 24-year-old to ever wield a club. A year after smoking Augusta for 11 birdies in one round, he’s going to (mostly) live up to his own grandeur on this day. Promise.
7.) There’s a fascinating turn of events at 2. After a 376 yard (!!) drive down the hill, Mickelson only has a short iron into the par 5, but he misses the green right. Westwood hits the green in two and will birdie, and just as Phil pulls back his putter on his own birdie roll, a piece of pine tree debris (that’s a technical term) drops into his line—and it knocks his ball offline! The replay on it is crazy.
“Unbelievable! Unbelievable!” says Peter Oosterhuis.
“That would be a story if it cost him the Masters,” Faldo adds. “That is most incredible.”
Westwood leads by one, and about this time, you’re thinking: Don’t the golf gods owe Phil after Winged Foot?
8.) Tiger makes a nice par save at No. 3 after overcooking an iron from the fairway, and here we’re reminded by Ian Baker-Finch that the rules have changed while Woods was on hiatus. Players have had to go to V-grooves in irons to cut the spin rate, and the theory is that Tiger hasn’t had any competitive rounds in to adjust. “He’s been wrong on his yardages 10 times in the past three days,” Baker-Finch says.
When Tiger bogeys the fourth and fifth, he’s six back and seems all but done. “He’s at sixes and sevens right now,” Faldo says. But then he hits a great approach at No. 7 and makes birdie, and that sparks him to birdies at Nos. 8 and 9. He’s alone in third place. “He’s still very much in it!” Nantz roots. “This is an amazing turnaround.”
9.) When Mickelson birdies No. 8 and Westwood misses his birdie chance, they’re tied at 12 under. Then the Englishman misses a four-footer for par at the ninth, and Mickelson is alone in the lead. It won’t last long. Up ahead, Choi makes a spectacular birdie at 10 and ties Phil.
Lefty will begin a troubling trend that he won’t be able to fix for the next five holes. He hooks his drive at No. 9 and will have to escape the trees. He’ll do it again at 10, and 11, and 13. And the reason why he ultimately wins this Masters: He plays three of the toughest par 4s and the easy 13th—all from the woods—in one under.
10.) The real turnaround moment comes at the par-3 12th. A year earlier, Mickelson surged into contention on Sunday with a front-nine 30, but sank his chances by hitting Rae’s Creek with his tee shot at Golden Bell and making double bogey. This time he covers the flag to the spot where he made birdie in 2004, and he drains the birdie. He’s back up by one shot on Choi, and that’s the last time he’ll be tied.
11.) After an opening spurt of two birdies in the first three holes, Couples falls out of contention because his most troublesome club—a long-handled putter—fails him. He gets plenty of birdie chances he can’t convert, and true contention is gone when his tee shot at 12 hits the bank and dribbles back into the water. And yes, we get to see replays of the miracle of 1992, when on that occasion he got incredibly lucky they couldn’t wax mow the bank because of rain, his ball stayed up, and he won.
12.) Oh, we almost forgot the aces at 16. They cut to Ryan Moore, who watches his ball hit the green, and despite barreling toward the hole like it’s late for work, it drops for a hole-in-one. It’s the second ace of the day and 13th ever at 16, with Nathan Green doing it first that Sunday.
The best part is Moore’s outfit. Black button-up sweater, striped shirt, and a thin green tie. Faldo mutters something funny that we can’t understand despite three rewinds, but caps it with, “With that outfit he’s probably doubling as a bar man this week.”
13.) While all this is going on, AK and his buckle are on fire. From 13 through 16, he goes birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. And none of the putts are shorties. He’s draining 20-footers everywhere!
A great graphic shows us Kim was seven shots off the lead at one point in the round; now he’s one back after his 16th. That’s as close as he’ll get, though. He makes an 18-footer (of course) for a par save at 18 that caps a 65 and gets into the clubhouse at 12 under—eventually good for solo third.
This is where it gets sad and a little mysterious. The week before the Masters, Kim won his third PGA Tour title in Houston. Then the shooting star flamed out. He played in only five more majors in the next year and a half, underwent surgery on his Achilles in June 2012 and never returned to professional golf.
14.) If we heard “unflappable” once, we heard it 10 times to describe Choi in the final round. And he was indeed a picture of composure though 12 holes. He stood in the middle of the 13th fairway one shot behind Mickelson and figured to put pressure on at the easiest hole on the course. But Choi makes a huge mistake by hitting into the back bunker, chunks his sand shot barely on the green, and makes BOGEY to drop two behind. Another bogey at 14 dooms him, and his tie for fourth with Woods will be his second-best all-time in the tournament.
15.) Tiger had an eventful back nine without ever really putting himself in the mix. He bogeyed 11 from the right trees, birdied 13, bogeyed 14, eagled 15 and birdied 18 to shoot 69 and finish five behind. Afterward, Kostis got him in a greenside interview and stammered a bit through a question about balancing his temper while keeping his fire. “People are making way too much of a deal of this thing,” Woods responded. Recounting some his bad shots, he added, “I’m not going to walk around there with a lot of pep in my step.”
16.) We’ve gone long enough. Need to get to “The Shot.” When Mickelson drove into the trees right on 13, it appeared he’d have to punch out. It sure seems like his caddie, Jim (Bones) Mackay, was pulling for that choice, especially because they’d just moved to two ahead with Choi’s bogey in front of them.
But Phil had other ideas. Which is why he’s Phil. And why this single decision and shot may define his career. With 187 yards to cover going over the creek, Mickelson pulled a 6-iron and, from off the thick pine straw, threaded the needle, with the ball landing just feet onto the bank and settling three feet from the hole.
“The greatest shot of his life this must be!” Faldo said.
Of course, those who know their Masters history remember that “The Shot” was followed by a miss. Mickelson hit a poor eagle putt that never scared the hole and had to settle for one of the most anti-climactic birdies in history. It still gave him a three-shot lead, and though Westwood birdied 17 en route to his solo second, Mickelson made a testy four-footer there to take a comfortable margin into 18.
17.) The scene at the 18th green was more emotional than most. Amy Mickelson, bedridden but in Augusta for all four days, was at the golf course for the first time and standing behind the green with their three children. Phil had tied three others, including Faldo, in winning a third green jacket, but the long embrace he and Amy shared seemed about far more than a simple victory.
“We’ve been through a lot,” Phil tells Nantz in Butler Cabin. “To be on the other end, to feel this kind of jubilation is incredible.”
When it comes to Mickelson, incredible is always in play.
2010 Masters—Final Round Broadcast