Phil Mickelson completed his third consecutive round of 69 strokes with a
birdie on the eighteenth to avoid a playoff with Ernie Els and become the 2004 Masters
Champion at Georgias Augusta National on Sunday. He is only the fourth player in the
history of the Masters to sink a birdie putt on 18 for victory, following in the footsteps
of Arnold Palmer, Sandy Lyle and Mark OMeara. No longer can they call Mickelson, who
has previously won 22 PGA Tour events, "the best player never to win a major".
After finishing third at this tournament for the last three years he is now the proud
owner of the coveted Green Jacket (left, with Mike Weir) and has vowed to return and play
at Augusta every year for the rest of his life, as is his right.
After getting off to a good start by birdieing
the second hole and extending their 2 shot overnight lead, the final pairing of Mickelson
and Chris DiMarco both then started to drop shots. After six holes Mickelson was sharing
the lead with Bernhard Langer on minus 4 when Ernie Els (right) eagled the eighth to take
the lead by one shot on minus 5. Els extended his lead with another eagle on the
thirteenth and birdie on fifteen but Mickelson stayed in contention by posting birdies on
12, 13 and 14 and regained a share of the lead at 8 under par with another on 16. With Els
now in the clubhouse, Mickelson had two holes left to get the one final birdie he needed.
His second shot on 17 left him with a difficult first putt that he was able to leave close
enough to secure par. One down one to go.
His drive off the final tee left him in "position A" and when
his second shot landed on the green, the roar from the crowd could not have been louder if
he had finished twenty inches from the hole rather than twenty feet. Chris DiMarco (left)
played his approach into the bunker guarding the front of the green and after failing to
get out at the first attempt he played a shot more appropriate in a Presidents Cup
team match. By leaving his ball inches behind Mickelsons marker he gave his playing
partner the chance to read the line of his impending championship putt.
The winning putt was played with perfect weight and dropped into the left
edge of the cup sending 33 year old Mickelson into a celebratory star-shaped leap (right)
worthy of the fittest of high school cheerleaders. His 31 strokes on the back nine, 69 on
the day, brought his final total to 279, nine under par, one shot ahead of long-time final
round leader Ernie Els who carded a 67 on Sunday for a total of 280.
Third place was taken by
Korean K. J. Choi, who pulled back the two strokes he dropped on the front nine by making
an eagle from the fairway on the 11th. He went on to make birdies on the 13th,
14th and 16th holes to card a 69 and a tournament total of 282,
three shots behind the winner. Choi is pictured on the left retrieving his ball after the
eagle on 11.
Two Europeans shared fourth position, twice Masters Champion (1985 & 1993) Bernhard
Langer from Germany (above left) who shot a par final round of 72 and Spains Sergio
Garcia (above right). Garcia recorded the best round of this years Masters, 6 under
par 66, to go from 3 over par at the start of the day to finish with a 3 under par total
Sixth place was shared by no less than seven players who each recorded a
tournament total of 286, 2 under par. With their final round score after their names, they
were; Vijay Singh (69) and Fred Couples (70) who are both former Masters champions, Davis
Love III (70), Nick Price (70), Kirk Triplett, (72 including a hole in one on the 16th,
photo right), Paul Casey (74) and overnight leader, Chris DiMarco (76).
Padraig Harrington, winner of Wednesdays warm-up event on the par-3
course, also shot a hole in one on the 16th on Sunday (left) and finished with
par 72 for the day, par 288 (T13) for the week.
Top amateur for this years Masters was 19 year old Casey Wittenberg (right), who
tied for 13th position (even par 288) with Harrington, Retief Goosen and
Charles Howell III. Wittenberg finished in style by matching Phil Mickelsons final
day back nine score of 31 strokes to complete a last round of 69.
23 year old Englishman Justin Rose (left), who held the lead for the first two days but
dropped down the field after a disastrous 9 over par round of 81 on Saturday, finished
with a 71 for a share of 22nd place.
The defending champion, Mike Weir, failed to make the cut, as did other 2004 winners
John Daly, Adam Scott, Jonathan Kaye, Chad Campbell and Craig Parry. Tiger Woods finished
tied for 22nd place with a 2 over par total of 290 which included two rounds of
75 on Thursday and Saturday.
Mickelsons victory makes him the sixth consecutive first-time major winner,
something which has never happened before in the history of the PGA. He is also only the
third left-handed major winner and was presented with his Green Jacket by last years
Masters champion, fellow leftie Mike Weir. New Zealands Bob Charles is the only
other left-handed golfer to win a major championship (1963 British Open). Mickelson
increased his record to eight top-ten finishes from 9 starts in 2004 (last 3 consecutive)
and his earnings of $1,170,000 extends his lead at the top of the PGA Tour and World Money
Lists with official prize money so far this year of $3,488,600.