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The Masters: Of Heel, and Heart

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"Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears." - Bobby Jones

The underlying story for The Masters was a symbol. Not the ego drunk sports hot shot, but a simple pink ribbon on Phil Mickelson's cap. It foreshadowed the fairy tale ending, as well as the human trauma amidst the drama playing out in one golfing family that made a man's purpose behind winning something larger than self.


The gods had a plan; though, after an errant piece of nature landed on the green as Mickelson took his back stroke putt for a possible birdie he sorely needed, you wondered if that was a sign. For Fred Couples, it just wasn't meant to be. But it was great to see the golfer I'd followed around Riviera playing so easily, so well for most of The Masters, close to contention until the back nine at Augusta, where many a great golfer meets their match on the final day of play.

You knew it was about to open up when Phil "the lefty" Michelson, hitting off a wood chip lie, threaded the 6-iron in between two trees, hitting a championship shot of a lifetime, taking a chance to open it up or take himself out, because it was now or never to make a move.

Then there was Tiger. If you want context for where he fit, all you had to do was listen to the interview he gave after his final back nine. When asked about his emotional state, the golfing great simply said, "I think people are making way too much a big deal of this thing." Of course, that was after he simply stated in response about how the tournament ended, "I came in fourth."

Tiger didn't mention the graciousness of the fans, the crowds, and the embrace of Augusta that cloaked his humiliating disgrace in forgiveness. For Mr. Woods, it all seemed simply to be something he expected.

But if anyone was surprised about Mr. Woods' cold, calculated and controlled emotional reaction to playing The Masters after his ego gratifying sex spectacle was revealed, all you have to do is go back to 2000. Tiger Woods didn't go to honor Jackie Robinson after Woods won The Masters. When the fine golfer Payne Stewart was killed when his plane crashed, and golfers all honored his passing, Tiger simply skipped that memorial, because he had to concentrate on his performance. So, it shouldn't surprise anyone that his customary lack of grace and humanity revealed itself yet again yesterday.

Beyond the sordid saga of Tiger Woods and his sorry self-indulgence, there was another story playing out that was a rare moment for the heart of The Masters to shine through. Phil Mickelson's wife Amy had been diagnosed with breast cancer last year; then just weeks later so was his mother. Amy has not been able to travel, the treatment is so intense, with Michelson's golf game put second for much of the last year, as the reports go. In fact, it wasn't even assured that Mrs. Mickelson would be at the 18th hole to see her husband finish; resting in bed all day, because the trip from California was so grueling considering the treatment she's still undergoing, though she is reportedly doing well now, even as the fight for a healthy life goes on.

However, after Phil Mickelson sunk the birdie putt at 18, walking up to mark his score, the beautiful blonde stood with their children to meet her husband's embrace after he'd won a herculean victory, not only on the golf course, but with his wife to see her standing there waiting with a smile and a kiss after a year that rendered such simple acts of love so precious that even golf now takes second place to the love of a spouse, family and normal life. Tears rolled.

The heart of the Mickelsons touched everyone watching the victor take his trophy. Not even the sterling silver replica, not even the green jacket, though beloved, could compete. It was the satisfaction of feeling the triumph over an evil illness, if just for this sweet moment, because in standing by his wife and putting himself and his sport second, somehow his heart, joined with The Lefty's talent, made winning all the more sweet, because he did it for her. For all they'd struggled to pass through, for one instant it all fell away, and the meaning of team, partnership, and reward was laid at the feet of the fighting Mickelsons.

Meanwhile, Tiger said he's going to take "a little time off" before coming back out to play. No one can take the greatness out of this golfer. However, as a human being he's got a lot to learn. Though watching him at the close of The Masters yesterday, I'm not certain he ever will.

Taylor Marsh is a political analyst out of Washington, D.C.

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