AUGUSTA, Ga. – Phil Mickelson was doing his best not to cry again as he slipped on another green jacket and tried to put into words things that he couldn’t possibly put into words.
He had already shed a tear on the 18th green, though he wasn’t alone. Anyone who knew the story had to shed a few, too, as Mickelson latched onto the tiny blond woman who had been through so much and shared an embrace that neither seemed willing to end.
He had struggled on the golf course all year, but that meant nothing. Not compared to the struggles Amy Mickelson went through while battling breast cancer.
There would be plenty of time later to talk about the shot that will live in Masters lore, plenty of time to reflect on what a third title means to his career. As the fading sun added some drama to the victory ceremony on the practice putting green, though, Mickelson wanted to talk about something closer to his heart – his wife.
“We’ve been through a lot this year; it means a lot to share some joy together,” he said. “She’s an incredible wife, an incredible mother. She’s been an inspiration for me this past year, seeing what she’s been through.”
It couldn’t have been more sincere. It could hardly have been more appropriate.
It started with a shot a Vegas high-roller would have never dreamed of betting on. It ended with a scene so touching it washed away any lingering memories of the stain Woods had put on this Masters.
The man who stands for everything Woods doesn’t stood wearing the green jacket Woods so desperately coveted. Even better, when he looked up on the 18th green, his wife – who had been bed-ridden most of the week – and his children were there to share it all with him.
“I was just really glad she was there,” Mickelson said. “I wasn’t sure if she was going to be there today. I knew she would be watching. I didn’t know if she would be behind 18. To walk off the green and share that with her is very emotional for us.”
If it was emotional for Mickelson, it was also therapeutic to golf. The throngs who crowded every hole as the leaders made their way around Augusta National may not have been quite sure how much emotion they were going to invest with Woods, but with Lefty there was no doubt.
They cheered him on every shot, pulled for him at every turn. And when he hit the shot on No. 13 no one will ever forget, they roared with delight.
Mickelson, who has for the most part kept Amy’s condition and treatment a private matter, said earlier this week that her long-term prognosis is very good, though she still deals with unspecified quality-of-life issues. Once a fixture in the crowd following Mickelson, she hasn’t been on the course with him at a tournament since being diagnosed last year.
On this memorable day, she walked hand-in-hand with her husband off the 18th green, waving to everyone along the way. People stood and cheered, yelling out well wishes to both.
Mickelson was red-eyed, seemingly shell-shocked, the goofy grin that so often adorns his face gone for the moment.
Amy, though, was all smiles.
“Good to see you guys,” she told them.
Surely it was. But not nearly as good as it was for golf to see a champion and his wife, together once again.