Mickelson Is Masterful at Augusta National
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Phil Mickelson has won his second Masters Golf Tournament in three years. Yesterday he pieced together an almost flawless final round to beat South African Tim Clark by two shots at the Augusta National Golf Club.
Commentator John Feinstein joins me now.
Good morning John.
Mr. JOHN FEINSTEIN (sports commentator, author): Good morning Renee.
MONTAGNE: So, a few years ago, Phil Mickelson was known as the best player in the world never to have won a major title, and that's obviously changed.
Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, there's no question about it. He's won back-to-back majors going back to last year's PGA, which was the final major of 2005. And now this Masters, and as you said, two Masters in three years, with Tiger Woods in between.
He was 0 for 42 at one point, playing in major championships, and now he's won three of the last nine--which is a remarkable percentage if one can keep that up over a long period of time.
And I think the big change is--once he won that first one, in 2004, a giant gorilla went off his back--because he never had to answer the question again: why haven't you won a major championship?
Now the question is how many major championships can he ultimately win?
MONTAGNE: And another question would be: how'd he turn around?
Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, I think again, the confidence from winning that first major two years ago is one thing. And also, I think he's much more relaxed about his entire life. He's very happy with his wife, with his three young children, and I think he's not trying to catch Tiger Woods anymore.
That's not his goal. His goal is to play well, week to week. His goal is to win as many majors as he can. He's not trying to hit every tee shot 500 years. He knows he's plenty long enough off the tee that he can play with control. He even used two different drivers this week, Renee; one to hit the ball from left to right, and another that helped him hit the ball from right to left. No one in history has ever done that before.
MONTAGNE: Now, Tiger Woods was in contention all week, but he came up short. What happened?
Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, to quote Tiger, he “putted like a spaz.”
Mr. FEINSTEIN: That's what he said after his round on Sunday. He hit the ball very, very well, but he just couldn't make any putts out there during the last round. He had a number of opportunities--he was within one shot of Mickelson at one point, and then dropped back because he kept missing putts.
He had a three putt on the eleventh hole. He missed a very short birdie putt on the next hole. And I think that--you have to make putts at Augusta National if you're going to win the Masters.
MONTAGNE: For awhile, it looked as if Fred Couples might break the record set by Jack Nicklaus, as the oldest man to win the Masters. How close was he?
Mr. FEINSTEIN: Really close. What a story it would have been.
Fred Couples has had back troubles in recent years. He won the Masters in 1992--but again, putting. On the 14th hole, he was four feet away for birdie, and could've gotten to within a shot of Phil Mickelson, and he ended up missing the birdie putt and the par putt.
He made a bogey, and that was pretty much the end of it. He ended up in a tie for third along with Tiger Woods and three others. But he was certainly one of those stories that people love to follow on Sunday at the Masters, because everybody in golf loves Fred Couples.
And the pairing of Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson together in the last group, was one of those where every time they, you know, looked at each other, the crowd started to cheer, because they're both so popular.
MONTAGNE: And quickly remind us, how old is Fred Couples? Was he the oldest?
Mr. FEINSTEIN: Fred's 46. Nicklaus was 46, but Fred's a couple months older than Jack was when he won in 1986, twenty years ago.
MONTAGNE: Okay, just really briefly. Phil Mickelson has won three of the last nine majors. Is he a challenger now to Tiger Woods, as the world's best player?
Mr. FEINSTEIN: That's exactly what he is, Renee. He's a challenger. Tiger Woods is still number one. He's won ten majors to Phil's three, but Phil is right there and now we have a legitimate one-versus-two battle.
And the two guys don't really like each other very much, so that makes it even more fun for those of us who are watching.
MONTAGNE: Thanks very much.
The comments of John Feinstein, whose lastest book is Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four.
This is NPR News.