Angel Cabrera wins the green jacket, but the 2009 Masters belongs to Phil Mickelson
I don’t think anyone is really going to have many lingering memories about Angel Cabrera’s 2009 Masters victory, other than perhaps his ridiculously lucky tree shot that found himself in the fairway (followed by a great up-and-down - we have to give him his props for that, taking advantage of a fortunate carom off bark from the golf gods).
But this Masters was all about Phil Mickelson, who stole the show in his pairing with Tiger Woods. He’s not going home with his third jacket but is going to be the water cooler champion this week. For the TV viewer, the flow of the day Sunday was surreal. It was like Ali and Frazier went at it in a heavyweight match but were the opening bout, paving the way for a few no-names to play for the championship belt.
And while the leaderboard will show that Mickelson was only one shot ahead of Woods at the end, it was Mickelson who was electrifying and agonizing - as usual. He was the one with the most realistic chance of an improbable win after starting the day seven shots back, when after he made the turn after a gutsy par on nine, found himself one shot off the lead.
That front nine for the ages once again showed why he - not Tiger - is the most exciting player in golf. He also looked like he was having fun out there while Woods was seemingly passing a kidney stone for four hours. He also made Woods look so average on the front side, sticking practically everything, including a remarkable recovery on No. 7 on his way to a 30 (while Woods blew a shot from the middle of the fairway to unrealistic birdie distance).
On the back nine, Phil could have easily saved four shots off his 37, giving him the jacket outright with a 63 that would have made him as synonymous with the Masters as Tiger or Jack.
He encountered an inexplicable string of misses on the back side - where suddenly putts that seemed routine on the front turned anything but. I’m still not sure why, at this point, I’m surprised.
His double at No. 12 hurts (you’d think with his wedge game he could have saved a bogey from the drop). But what’s still tough to figure out is how he started pushing putts from then on. He threw a laser into 15 before gagging the short eagle putt - and his crucial birdie putt at 17 never had a chance either.
The man with the world’s best short game couldn’t come through with short putts - or lob a 9-iron onto dry land on 12. It’s inconceivable, but then again that’s just vintage Mickelson: hitting the impossible shots while throwing in a few fatal blows to his chances for good measure.
Woods and Mickelson both showed their frustrations on the 18th tee as they both let drivers rip for no reason. They’re both plenty long to go with 3-wood there (and Woods seems to hit 3-wood every time). Mickelson’s draw with a 3-wood off that tee would have been perfect. But by then I think they both knew they were toast and felt like killing something - just like all us amateurs do when we come to the last tee of the afternoon with the match over or our scorecard is shredded beyond repair.
So while Kenny Perry rattled off 11 straight pars out of the gate and Angel Cabrera seemed to be falling off, CBS and the Augusta patrons were enthralled with Tiger and Lefty - mostly Lefty, so we got a hearty dose of their pairing far more than any other. That’s not necessarily the network’s fault. For once, it’s hard to call a foul on excessive Tiger-Phil coverage, because no one else was making birdies until they were off the golf course. I’m sure the TV ratings from the start-to-finish are going to be astronomical.
Finally, the roars are back at Augusta after a two year absence. We heard plenty of hubbub about it being a course that doesn’t yield birdies anymore, but really all the course needed was a decent stretch of weather over the weekend. The heavens, perhaps sensing the Masters was due another classic, delivered a clear and calm weekend. Mickelson delivered with golf as exciting as you’ll find, while Tiger filled in with the odd eagle and birdie during any lulls. Kenny Perry added a dose of heartbreak down the stretch - and Angel Cabrera suddenly has as many major wins since 2007 as Tiger Woods.
But this year it was Mickelson who was the knock-out bridesmaid everyone was oogling at Cabrera’s wedding.
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The best match to watch was Carbrera's and he deserved the win.