There was a time in history when you could Google phrases like “runner-up” or “second place finish” and all roads would lead to Phil Mickelson. All of that got put to rest on Sunday, April 11, 2004 when Lefty drained a birdie putt on the final hole of the Masters Tournament. With that, he was finally able to add “Masters Champion” to his already impressive resume. He was no longer considered “the best to never win a major” because he’d finally climbed the mountain. After more than a decade as a professional golfer, he had claimed his first title in a Major.
Today: 2004 Masters – Final Round
Did you know the reason Mickelson plays golf left-handed is that he learned the game by “mirroring” his father’s right-handed swing? He was practically born with a club in his hands, working on his golf game before even starting school.
By the time he enrolled in Arizona State University, by way of a golf scholarship, Mickelson was already on the Golf world’s radar. His collegiate success made him the face of golf at the amateur level. He won numerous individual awards, as well as a team championship in 1990. Over the course of his collegiate career, Phil won 16 tournaments. He also won the first PGA Tour event he ever competed in – The Northern Telecom Open – in Tucson, AZ, joining a handful of amateurs who have ever won a PGA Tour event. His victory, in 1991, is STILL the last by an amateur. That same year at The Masters, Mickelson would post the lowest score by an amateur – at 20 years old!! He would finish tied for 46th.
Life as a Professional
It came as no surprise that Phil turned pro pretty quickly after graduating. His win in Tucson in 1991 allowed him to skip “Q-School” and he would waste no time making his mark at the PGA level much as he had in school. He would rack up 21 victories as a professional on the PGA Tour between February 1993 and February of 2004. Despite all of the success, there was something missing – and people were taking notice.
There are FOUR Major Tournaments every season on the PGA Tour. Between 1999 and 2003, Phil had 17 top 10 finishes – and six of them were 2nd or 3rd place results. Some of the finishes came in excruciating fashion. I can only imagine the mental toll it must take to come so close to tasting glory, only to come up short. The pressure continued to mount with every Major that would come and go.
Rounds 1 through 3 set the stage
Thursday ended with Phil shooting an even par 72, leaving him 5 strokes off the lead. A second round 69 moved him into a tie for 4th heading into the weekend. By the time Phil was putting his head on his pillow Saturday night, he would find himself tied for the lead at -6. The players ahead of him on Saturday had all collapsed, while Phil put up another 69. As the sun rose on Championship Sunday, there were only 8 players under par for the tournament. The only question on anyone’s mind that morning was “will this finally be the one”? Would “Lefty” be able to get the monkey off his back and join the ranks of Major Champions? Only 18 holes stood between him and the green jacket. Well – that and a handful of other golfers within striking distance.
The Storybook Ending
Those final 18 holes had a little of everything you’d hope for as a fan. I could blabber on about the ups and downs among the contenders during the course of the round, but it’s much better to just watch it all unfold through the link above. As if the emotion of that isn’t enough – read this story Mickelson shared while he joined Jim Nantz on a re-broadcast of this final round last month.
Phil would seize the momentum of this win. He’s gone on to win 4 more Majors (The Masters twice more and a PGA Championship. The US Open is the only Major that has eluded him thus far. His career has seen continued ups and downs since that Sunday in 2004, but moments like this are what we love about sports. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
See You Tomorrow. Stay Safe. Stay Smart. Wash Your Hands.
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