The color of the day was green. The emotion of the day was colored pink. The green jacket for the winner. The pink ribbon on his hat for his wife’s battle with cancer.
America’s Finest City has America’s champion golfer, Phil Mickelson, who won the Masters at Augusta.
There were cheers as he walked up the fairway for the final four holes. There were tears as he hugged his wife Amy coming off the last green, him winning while she’s fighting to win against breast cancer.
There was a four-minute standing ovation as he made that final walk and a two minute non-stop salute after he made his final shot. His long birdie on the 18th and final hole was an exclamation point to a spectacular day in which he fought off the challengers and fought the course simultaneously.
You name any hole down the stretch, and he coped with the pressure. Shots into the trees on the 10th, 11th and 12th. A phenomenal downhill putt at 12 that accentuated his intensity.
The unlucky 13th became the difference maker. A shot into the woods led to a seemingly impossible lie from behind a tree with a look between two pines at the distant green. What he did with the daring shot, landing within feet of the pin, might well be the greatest of his career.
The pressure was enormous. Tiger Woods was lurking off in the distance trying to play catchup before his game disintegrated in a series of bad drives, missed putts and foul mouth expressions.
Up-and-coming Anthony Kim roared from nowhere, picking up five strokes on a four-hole span before the historical course caught up to him.
The veteran Englishman, Lee Westwood, who had consecutive top-three victories in majors, came close only to fall short again in second place.
The patrons cheered the greatness of veterans Tom Watson and Fred Couples for a spectacular weekend in the twilight of their classy careers.
But the pressure on the course can be no less than what Mickelson, San Diego’s hometown hero, has faced in his personal life. He showed the courage to soldier on while Amy was bedridden with cancer. The emotional ups and downs of surgery, chemo and medication. The hopes she would get better, battling the emotions when she would feel worse. And the knowledge, there was a tournament to be played.
For Mickelson, maybe the best example of who he is was the television commercial just before he teed off on the 18th hole. An ad for his Teachers Academy Foundation. His resources used to make schools a better place for the children of tomorrow.
For Tiger Woods, alone in his world, his final day became an example of what his life has become. Empty.
CBS ignored him for virtually the entire final five holes. He was caught hammering balls into trees, then exclaiming “Jesus Christ” before he stormed up the fairway. He missed putts, and grew angrier and dour as the end approached.
His week was marred by the outspoken rip job of Augusta National chairman Billy Payne. There was the “From the Grave” Nike commercial featuring his late father’s voice. There was him cheaply linking and comparing his comeback to the legendary Byron Nelson decades ago, who nearly died in a car accident.
And the public embarrassment in nearby Atlanta, when alleged mistress Joslyn James showed up for a strip show performance wearing a replica Green Masters jacket. Golf fans at Augusta cheered his shots, but he was never far from all that is the ongoing saga of porn stars, payoffs, text messages, lies and dishonesty.
Tiger’s wife Elin and their children refused to come even though Woods rented a private house for them. Some four days of memories to put in his scrap book.
Woods played the final day in his standard Sunday red golf shirt. I looked at it, and could only think of the Scarlet Letter A. The fans cheered him still, driving home the point that they hold their heroes to a low standard of excellence.
It was a remarkable four days for him on the course, his only sanctuary now, with no family and few friends. For Woods to finish 11-under par was amazing considering there was no tuneup tournament. But one great day was followed by three up-and-down, all-over-the course days. Now, he can go home to his empty house and world.
Mickelson comes home to the adulation of the golfing community. He earned it, he deserves it.
San Diego should cheer the man, the father, the husband and the golfer. Sunday was a special day for Phil Mickelson and his family, rightfully so, because the past days over this past year have been so hard for him privately.
Green Jackets, pink ribbons, and sunshine in his life. Mickelson, Masters champion sounds so right for all the things he is — at home and on the course. Champion person. Champion player.
Lee ‘Hacksaw’ Hamilton hosts “Sportswatch” (2-4pm) on XX-1090 Radio. His SDNN columns have been honored by the San Diego Press Club.