Monday, April 12, 2004

Mickelson is a Master

This Sunday, I had the privilege of watching one of the most moving sporting events that I have ever seen. Phil Mickelson birdied five of the last seven holes at Augusta National to come from three strokes back to win the Masters. The furious charge was capped when Mickelson sank an 18-foot putt to birdie the 72nd and final hole of the tournament. A roar went up from the crowd gathered in the hollow. Mickelson lept in the air. And a tear came to my eye. The dramatic finish gave Mickelson his first major championship. Until Sunday, the left-hander was best known as the greatest golfer never to win a major. Now he will forever be introduced as the 2004 Masters Champion.

The reason why it was so great to see Mickelson win is because of the class with which he has always handled defeat and the sheer joy which he expressed upon finally winning. The first person who greeted Mickelson was Jim MacKay, the caddie who has carried his clubs in every single one of his proffessional tournaments. Mickelson then celebrated by hugging his wife and three beautiful children. The only person missing from this scene was Mickelson's grandfather who passed away in January. Up until this year, Mickelson had given his grandfather the 18th flag from every tournament that he has won. Just before he died, Mickelson's grandfather told Mickelson that he didn't want any more tournament flags that weren't from a major. His grandfather also told him that he was sure that 2004 would finally be Mickelson's year. And, indeed, Mickelson captured the first major tournament of 2004. And, Jim MacKay took the 18th flagstick away from from the green.

Some people ask why sports play such a prominent role in the lives of so many Americans. This is not easy to put into words, but anyone who saw 72nd hole of the Masters certainly felt the answer to that question.