RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Phil Mickelson has won the Masters Golf Tournament for the third time. It was a picture-perfect Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club. And Mickelson's three-stoke victory capped off a dramatic and emotional final round. NPR's Tom Goldman was there to see it.
TOM GOLDMAN: Phil Mickelson loves the Masters. OK, that's obvious. But in fact, he'd been saying it all week, even before he won his third green jacket yesterday. He just gets relaxed coming to Augusta National because, he says, as challenging as the course is, you don't have to play perfect golf to win. Case in point: holes 9, 10 and 11 yesterday, when he mucked about but still made par on each one. On 11, he even hit a spectator and made par.
Mickelson was asked later if the guy said anything.
Mr. PHIL MICKELSON (Professional golfer): Ouch.
GOLDMAN: Which, a hole later, is what Mickelson's competitors started to say.
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That was the sound of Phil Mickelson locking in. On the 12th hole, the heart of famed Amen Corner - the hole where he essentially lost last year's Masters, when he hit into the water - Mickelson drained a birdie putt, the first of four one-under-par birdies over the final seven holes. The putt on 12 came at a critical time, when Mickelson was starting to worry about the pair of golfers right ahead of him.
Mr. MICKELSON: The guys in front of us are lighting it up. I've got to get my round going. I've got to make some birdies.
GOLDMAN: The guys lighting it up were South Korean K.J. Choi and Tiger Woods. Woods, of course, was the story of the week: the Masters, his personal comeback tournament after nearly five months away because of the scandal.
As each day went on, his presence seemed more normal. And by Sunday, with Woods wearing his traditional, final-round red shirt, we saw again why he's not just an attraction in a golf tournament. He's an addiction - because there's always Tiger magic around a golf corner.
And wouldn't you know it, after a horrible start to his round, on hole 7, he hit his second shot from the fairway into the cup - two-under par eagle. Hole 8, a birdie. Hole 9 -
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GOLDMAN:...eagle, birdie, birdie. But the magic wouldn't last. Woods wasn't playing consistently enough, spraying balls on either side of straight - problems that started on the driving range before his round even began.
Mr. TIGER WOODS (Professional golfer): Another terrible warm-up today. I didn't have it, and it was pretty evident.
GOLDMAN: Woods talked to reporters after his round. Nearby, on the 18th green, Phil Mickelson made his triumphant finish with one last birdie. It was hard to hear Woods over the cheers, which swelled when Mickelson came off the green and was greeted by his wife, Amy.
Woods has made a tradition of emotional, post-round victory hugs - first with his late father, then with his, wife Elin. She didn't come to the tournament this week. Woods walked away from the scene as Mickelson and his wife shared a tearful embrace.
Amy Mickelson is being treated for breast cancer. She'd been in Augusta most of the week, but hadn't felt well enough to come to the tournament. Her appearance yesterday was a surprise, even to her husband.
Mr. MICKELSON: Yeah, I don't normally shed tears over wins. And when Amy and I hugged, off 18, that was a very emotional moment for us and something that I'll look back on and just cherish. I mean, I'll cherish every moment of this week. This has been a very special week.
GOLDMAN: One that ended with a third green jacket and a long embrace. For Tiger Woods, a fourth-place finish and uncertainty. I'll take a little time off, he said, and kind of re-evaluate things.
Tom Goldman, NPR News, Augusta.
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