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Mickelson Wins Third Green Jacket


Phil Mickelson was simply spectacular Sunday at Augusta National, closing with a bogey-free, 5-under 67 to win his third Masters' title. This latest green jacket adds to previous titles won in 2004 and '06, giving Mickelson a total of four major titles to go along with his victory in the 2005 PGA Championship.

Mickelson ended up at 16-under 272, three shots better than third-round leader Lee Westwood. The 36-year-old Englishman, who started the final round one shot ahead of Mickelson, couldn't keep pace with the champion, with whom he was paired in the final twosome. Westwood closed with a 1-under 71 to take solo second at 13-under 275.

Before he was fitted with his newest green jacket, Mickelson admitted that the past year has been tough due to the breast cancer both his wife Amy and mother have endured. "It's been an emotional year for my family. The last year we've been through a lot and to feel this jubilation is incredible."

Once the cherished emerald-colored raiment was placed over his shoulders by 2009 champion Angel Cabrera, Mickelson said, with no small amount of relief, "It fits - feels great."

The 39-year-old San Diego native played consistently throughout the final round, reeling off seven straight pars before a birdie on the par-5 eighth and making the turn at 1-under 35. After pars on Nos. 10 and 11, Mickelson got rolling with a birdie at the diabolical par-3 12th.

He carded another birdie on the par-5 13th - one that should have been an eagle despite a wayward tee shot. From the pine straw right of the fairway 205 yards from the hole, Mickelson launched a fantastic 6-iron that split two pine trees and landed 3 feet of the cup. His eagle attempt just slipped by, however, but he sank the comebacker for birdie.

After a par-4 on 14, he notched another birdie on the par-5 15th. Following pars on Nos. 16 and 17 - the latter of which involved a clutch 5-foot putt to prevent Westwood, in with a birdie, from becoming only a stroke back with one to play, Mickelson capped off his outstanding closing round with a second shot to 8 feet on the 18th and sinking the putt for a birdie.

An exultant Mickelson raised his arms in celebration and gave his longtime caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay an emotional hug. En route to the scoring shed, he and his wife had a long, teary embrace, followed by more hugs with his three kids and swing coach Butch Harmon.

The victory ties Mickelson with Jimmy Demaret, Gary Player, Sam Snead and Nick Faldo as the only three-time winners of the Masters. Only Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer, with four apiece, and six-time champion Jack Nicklaus own more green jackets.

Westwood kept his cool - a trait he exhibited all tournament long - throughout the final day. It was just that the guy he was playing with was red-hot and mistake-free. "It wasn't that rough a day, really," Westwood said. "It was quite enjoyable out there. We both struggled off the tee early on, I think, but you know, Phil being the champion he hit some great shots coming down the stretch there; his 9-iron into 13, and his second shot into 13 was incredible, and then just played solid coming in. You know, he's been through hard times recently and he deserves a break or two."

There were several other storylines on this dramatic day. Fred Couples, 50, was clearly one of the crowd favorites and his play generated roars early in the round. The 1992 Masters champion had birdies on Nos. 2 and 3, and five straight pars preceded a birdie on the par-4 ninth.

But on the 11th, Couples' fortunes turned. After a bogey on that par-4, he hit into Rae's Creek with his tee shot on the par-3 12th - the hole where his ball miraculously stopped short of rolling into the water in 1992, thus ensuring his win that year - and carded a double. He rallied with two straight birdies, bogeyed the par-3 16th, birdied the 17th and arrived home with a par to a rousing ovation.

"I tried to stuff it in on 12 and I hit it off the toe and it didn't carry," he said of his strategy on that famous hole. "Had a double there to end (my) misery. But I finished well and I had a great week. I was battling on the back nine to try to make birdies."

When asked about his experience in the 2010 Masters, Couples, who finished sixth at 9-under 279, said: "I'm not really that kind of person looking for the meaning of it. The best meaning here is when I won in '92 and I continue to get to play here because of that. I have a game that's suited to this course and what it means right now is I'm really disappointed in a few shots, but at the same time I'm glad to finish it out. So that's pretty good for me."

The big news leading into the event was the reappearance of Tiger Woods in his first competition since last November. Heading into the final round only four shots behind Westwood, Woods got off to an inauspicious start Sunday, bogeying three of his first five holes. He rallied from there, however, carding an unlikely eagle 2 on the par-4 seventh after his approach landed in the middle of the green and rolled into the cup, followed by two birdies.

From there, his erratic play reappeared. Woods carded two bogeys, two birdies and an eagle on the par-5 15th. In what appeared to be his most frustrating moment, he three-putted from 3 feet on No. 14. After his first putt rolled by, Woods uncharacteristically lost his focus and missed again. Instead of a possibly momentum-turning birdie, he walked off with a bogey, a fatal situation on Sunday at Augusta.

Woods' final birdie came on the 18th after he stuffed his approach. When his putt fell, Woods raised his arms in mock celebration. He ended up with a 69 and tied with K.J. Choi - who also shot a 69 and with whom Woods played each day in this Masters.

After the round, Woods was succinct in his comments to the media. "I finished fourth," he said. "Not what I wanted. I wanted to win this tournament. As the week wore on I kept hitting the ball worse. I hit it better on Friday, but after that it was not very good."

Yet he seemed to enjoy being back in the spotlight. "Overall it was a good week," he said. Woods wasn't sure when or where he will make his next appearance. "I'm going to take a little time off and kind of re-evaluate things."

Choi, who was calmly going about his business en route to getting near the top of the leaderboard, faltered with two straight bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14 and lost any chance to overtake the leaders.

Finishing a stroke ahead of Woods and Choi in solo third was Anthony Kim, whose play electrified the huge galleries. The 24-year-old made the turn in 2-under 34, then shot lights-out on the back, going 5-under in a four-hole stretch (Nos. 13-16). He ended up with a 7-under 65, tying Nick Watney for the low round of the day.

"It was a very good round," Kim said. "I didn't get anything started early, but I hung in there and just waited for the good breaks to happen. I knew I was going to be able to make some putts out there, so starting on 13 I got the ball rolling and had six putts in from there and that usually means that you're shooting under par."

The young Italian, Matteo Manassero, ended up in a tie for 36th after closing with an even-par 72 and winning the low-amateur title (he was the only amateur to make the cut). When presented with that honor in the Butler Cabin during the awards ceremony, the 16-year-old said he would be turning pro in three weeks.

The youngster added he had a great learning experience during his first - but most likely not last - appearance in the Masters. He said he liked "everything here. I mean, playing on a course like this obviously makes you understand that you can play on every course."

The shots of the day both came on the par-3 16th, which both Ryan Moore and Nathan Green aced. Moore closed with a 4-under 68, good for a tie for 14th, while the Australian Green shot a 3-over 75 to finish further back in the pack.

One of the oddest moments in Masters' history came on the second hole, when, in the middle of Mickelson's backswing, a pine casing dropped from the sky into his line. His ball struck the invading material and his birdie attempt caromed to the left. Westwood birdied the par-5, while Mickelson took a par.

But no amount of negative factors - or potential bad omens - could deter Mickelson on this day. Later in the Butler Cabin he admitted as much. "This is a most amazing feeling. I'll look back at this day as something very special, something I'll always cherish."