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.

Gene Wojciechowski, Dear Diary, Geezus Christ! Get me the %#@& out of here! Oh, I’m sorry — New Tiger told everybody I’d tone down the swearing, but it isn’t easy. I’ve got a book — “Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cursing” — that I read every freaking night, but did you see what I went through this past week? On Monday I had to meet the press, which is like eating a pine cone sandwich. On Tuesday I got National Enquirer’d on a neighbor story. On Wednesday I got napalmed by Billy Payne, the chairman of Augusta National, for my sex scandal. Then I got seared for my new Nike commercial. On Thursday I got buzzed by a couple of planes tugging some banners — and they weren’t wishing me luck. On Friday one of my former “friends” had a strip club gig down the road in Atlanta. On Saturday I got mocked by Tina Fey on “Saturday Night Live.” On Sunday I could have won the Masters, but someone kidnapped my swing, my bunker game and on No. 14, my putting stroke. I hockey-sticked it around from 8 feet. Plus, my allergies are so bad I feel like I’ve been spray-painted with pollen. And guess what? I still shot 68-70-70-69, finished tied for fourth and had a Masters record-tying four eagles. If I hadn’t bogeyed three of the first five holes Sunday, I might have given Phil Mickelson a run for the green jacket. But it is what it is.

Tim Kawakami, San Jose Mercury News: But there was also a circular, semi-déjà vu feel to Sunday’s developments, a sense that Mickelson and Woods are tied together now more than ever. Mostly, what happened Sunday cemented that this era of golf will be defined by the Big Two — Woods vs. Mickelson — and by their opposite personalities and career paths. Also now by their very similar Masters accomplishments and iconic emotional scenes of celebration. It’s not just Woods vs. Everybody Else or Woods vs. His Own Reckless Behavior. After Sunday, it’s Tiger and Phil, with all the accompanying baggage and expectations.

Bob Harig, Steve Loy, Phil Mickelson’s long-time agent, tried to remain calm. After all, a bit of decorum is required inside the Augusta National clubhouse. But how do you hold it in? The player he recruited as a teenager to play golf at Arizona State, then later went to work for, was involved in a riveting back nine Sunday, a major championship at stake. And then, like the rest of the world, Loy could not believe his eyes. There was Mickelson in the pine straw on Augusta’s par-5 13th hole, thinking about firing a shot through an opening in the trees. As caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay tried to talk Lefty out of it, Loy gulped. There was nothing left to do but watch and hope as Mickelson rifled his 6-iron, nearly catching one tree with his follow through, and the ball landed on the green and came to rest 3 feet from the cup. Fans surrounding the green went crazy, Mickelson pumped his fist and Loy could only sit back in his chair in disbelief. … It was the shot of the tournament, of the year, and maybe of Mickelson’s career.

Richard Sandomir, NY Times: CBS always has a challenge balancing its coverage of Mickelson and Woods when they are both in contention. Mickelson appeals to a network’s heart, Woods to its brains. … Before their tee times Sunday, Woods and Mickelson were shown side by side at the practice range; similar treatment was not given to Westwood, who entered the day with a one-stroke lead. This year, the temptation was to focus heavily on Woods. After he confessed to infidelities and became a national joke, his return from rehabilitation was the big story of the tournament.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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