Masters reaction

Rick Reilly, ESPN: It’s not often women win the Masters, but they did Sunday. Actually, Phil Mickelson won, but for millions of women around the country, it must feel like a lipstick-sized victory. Mickelson, in case you forgot, is the guy who stayed true to his wife. He’s the guy who’s been missing tournaments the last 11 months while he flies her back and forth to a breast cancer specialist in Houston. He’s the guy who didn’t need reminding that women are not disposable. Mani-pedis for everybody! Also winning Sunday: karma, which proved to be alive and well. And guys who never had a temper in the first place. And endings that make you wipe your tears on the couch pillows. Mickelson is the guy whose heavy head on the bed pillow lately wasn’t self-inflicted. Both his wife, Amy, and his mother, Mary, have breast cancer. Usually, those two are at every tournament he’s in, but for the last year they’ve been fighting, resting, and fighting again at home. And Mickelson has gone back to his rented homes alone. So when Amy turned up on the 18th green Sunday at Augusta National for the first time in 11 months and Mickelson practically fell into her outstretched arms, you wanted to hug somebody yourself. Mickelson hugged and cried. And his wife hugged and cried.

Mike Freeman, Woods approached and decided not to take a drop. Woods’ caddy, Steve Williams, told fans to “watch the shadows on his ball” and then rolled his eyes when several people didn’t move quickly enough for his liking. After talking to himself for about 15 seconds, Woods took his shot, and a second after the swing there was a strong thud. The ball hit a tree and rolled out onto the fairway. Woods never said a word to Sullivan before or after ball met biceps. Interestingly, in the very next group, again on 11, Phil Mickelson’s shot hit a different fan, also in the arm, right near Sullivan. Mickelson approached the fan, asked if he was OK and handed him a glove. Besides illustrating the differences between how Woods and Mickelson treat people, the 11th basically ended any chance of Woods making his Masters return even more fascinating than it was. Woods bogeyed 11 just as Mickelson was starting to surge. And it was fascinating, curse-filled theatre watching Woods, to be sure. Woods shot 69 to finish 11 under and tied for fourth. His day typified what has been one of the more circus-like but brilliant returns to a sport after a layoff any great athlete has ever accomplished. It doesn’t quite rival Ali’s return to boxing, but it was on the same level as Michael Jordan’s return to basketball.

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Decade Debate: 6 Greatest Sports Rivalries

The word rivalry is defined as “competition for the same objective or superiority in the same field.” Rivalries exist in all facets of life, but they are no more apparent than in the world of sport. With the end of the decade looming, here are the six most intense rivalries of the last ten years.

6. Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson

Competition between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson may not produce the mystique that Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus once did, but their rivalry has been exciting nonetheless. Without Tiger Woods, professional golf’s popularity would be a mere morsel of what it is today. The man has won 14 majors, holds his own tournament (the AT&T National), designed two beautiful courses, is the only golfer with his own video game, and garners public intrigue on the same level as world leaders. Still, his status as figurehead of professional golf wouldn’t have any merit without some stiff competition. Enter Phil Mickelson, Tiger’s only adversary with any staying power. When Mickelson won the 2000 Buick Invitational, he also officially ended Tiger’s streak of consecutive tournament wins at six. Over the years, Mickelson would hire Butch Harmon, Tiger’s former coach, and joke about Tiger’s use of “inferior equipment.” Still, their rivalry always remained amicable, even as Phil won his first major in ’04 (The Masters), the PGA Championship in ’05 another Green Jacket in ’06. During this year’s Masters, Tiger and Mickelson were finally paired together in a major event. Trudging down the final back nine at Augusta, the two golfers put on a show that thankfully lived up to the hype. –- Christopher Glotfelty

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