No 8: Masters 2010

The Masters may be one of the four cornerstones of men’s professional golf, but the Georgia invitational might also be considered a genteel, clubby stop on the championship circuit. In 2010, though, the tournament had been overwhelmed by news of — and online searches for — the return of Tiger Woods. He attracted huge crowds for practice rounds. Planes pulling heckling messages flew overhead. Around the globe, everyone wanted to know how he’d fare in his first tournament since the revelation of his affairs.

In the end, though, Tiger was not the story. The golfer making headlines was Phil Mickelson, the perennial runner-up, winning his fourth major title and coming off Augusta National’s 18th green to a family hug nearly a year in the making. Phil’s focus was on his family: his mother Mary and wife Amy, both battling breast cancer, and his three children, eager to celebrate after such a long, hard, scary slog.

“To have [Amy] here and share this moment and share the joy of winning on 18 and to share this with my kids is something that we’ll look back on the rest of our lives,” Mickelson said in April. “This means so much to us to be able to share this type of jubilation.”

Mickelson won by returning to his roots, playing with a daring style that spoke of a man who had found something bigger to pray for than winning a golf tournament.

It was the return of the old Lefty, finding the good old days before life became about chemo sessions. Even before winning the Masters he had declared this a great week: It was the first time Amy was strong enough to travel to a tournament with him.

The family rented a house in Augusta, and the days became about finding normalcy. There were morning chess games at a nearby coffee shop with the kids, movies on the couch at night, a run to a local Krispy Kreme. One daughter needed her wrist X-rayed after a roller skating accident. Phil didn’t get to bed until 1 a.m. before the final round.

Then he won. The week that had begun with tabloid stories ended with tears, hugs, and soaring emotions. This was a family in full. The green jacket was just a bonus.

–Dan Wetzel