AUGUSTA -- Phil Mickelson finally managed to escape the shadow Tiger Woods had cast over the 2010 Masters Tournament, and he did it in typical Mickelson fashion.
Mickelson was virtually flawless Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club, parlaying a bogey-free 67 into an emotional three-shot victory over Lee Westwood. Mickelson, who won his third green jacket and $1.35 million, finished the tournament at 16-under-par 272. Westwood, one spot behind Mickelson in the world golf rankings at No. 4, shot 71 and remained winless in major championships.
Woods, who was making his return to golf after a five-month absence as he tried to reclaim a reputation sullied by a sex scandal, hung around the leaderboard throughout the week and was in contention Sunday.
But Woods had three bogeys over the first five holes in the final round and eventually finished in a tie for fourth with K.J. Choi at 69-277. Anthony
Kim, with a final-round 65, leapfrogged the pack and finished third at 276. And 50-year-old Fred Couples, the 1992 Masters champion, finished alone in sixth at 70-279.
Mickelson said he could not find the words to express what it meant to have his family present for a victory he was trying to win for them. Eleven months ago, Mickelson's wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer; six weeks later his mother, Mary, was also diagnosed with breast cancer. Both were on hand Sunday to share in the jubilation.
Amy has been undergoing an aggressive form of treatment, and while the long-term prognosis is good, Mickelson said, it has left her physically drained. He wasn't certain she would be able to come to the tournament Sunday, so when he found Amy and their children behind the 18th green, there was little wonder that the post-round hugs were mixed with tears.
"This has been a very special day and a very special week," Mickelson said. "To have Amy and my kids here to share this with, I can't put into words. What we've been through the last year is incredible."
Mickelson, who trailed Westwood by one shot going into the final round, did not make his first birdie until the par-5 eighth hole. He said as he and Westwood walked up to mark their balls, they commented that it was time to "join the party" since they were hearing roars from throughout the course as other players chalked up birdies and eagles.
The birdie on No. 8, from three feet, gave him a share of the lead, and then he took the lead by himself going to the back nine when Westwood bogeyed the ninth. But it was very tenuous. Mickelson's tee shots on 9, 10 and 11 all found the trees and left him struggling to make pars.
"One of the things I've been saying this week is that I'm very relaxed at Augusta National because you don't have to be perfect," he said. "I had bad swings and was able to salvage pars."
The key, he said, was a delicate 20-foot downhill putt he converted for birdie on the par-3 12th to get to 13-under. On the par-5 13th, Mickelson pulled his drive into the pine trees, but had a narrow opening. Instead of laying up, he challenged Rae's Creek and went for the green, knocking his 6-iron approach from 207 yards to three feet. He missed the eagle try that would have given him an insurmountable lead but the two-putt birdie moved Mickelson to 14-under and gave him a two-shot cushion.
Mickelson parred 14, then was able to reach the par-5 15th with an 8-iron and had an easy two-putt from 15 feet for another birdie that gave him a three-shot cushion with three to play. Mickelson and Westwood both parred the 16th, but Westwood put some pressure on the left-hander with a great approach shot on 17 that led to a birdie. Mickelson managed to convert a tricky two-putt and held a two-shot lead going to 18.
Mickelson pulled out his 3-wood and hit it short of the traps, then hit a solid 7-iron approach to 10 feet to set up the birdie for the three-shot win.
"I tried to put a bit of pressure on Phil. He hit some great shots when he needed to," said Westwood, who has finished third, third and second in his last three majors. "I shot 71, which is not a terrible score. Phil shot 67, which generally wins major championships. He hit good shots when he needed to on the back nine. I think Phil won that one fair and square."
Mickelson offered some encouraging words to Westwood as they were signing their scorecards and said he is pulling for Westwood to win a major very soon.
"I'm in love with this place. It brings out the best in me," Mickelson said.
Mickelson joined some very select company in winning his third green jacket. Jack Nicklaus has six, Woods and Arnold Palmer have four each. The other three-time winners are Sam Snead, Jimmy Demaret and Nick Faldo.
"I don't normally shed tears over wins," Mickelson said. "When Amy and I hugged (behind) 18, that was a very emotional moment for us and something that I'll look back on and cherish. I mean, I'll cherish every moment of this week. This has been a very special week."
Reach Tommy Braswell at firstname.lastname@example.org.