Augusta Masters: Presence of wife Amy marks out Phil Mickelson win as a special one

PHIL Mickelson ended a trying year by shooting a five-under-par 67 for a three-stroke win over England's Lee Westwood and an emotional third Masters title. As Mickelson strolled up to the 18th green, his third Green Jacket as good as won, he wondered if his wife would be waiting for him.

Phil Mickelson greets his wife Amy after winning the 2010 Masters golf tournament at the Augusta

She'd been there the first two times he won the Masters, but he would have understood if she decided to skip this victory celebration. Yet there she was, waiting with an embrace they'll remember for a lifetime.

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"I normally don't shed tears over wins," Mickelson said, his eyes watering. "When Amy and I hugged off 18, that was a very emotional moment for us. I'll cherish every moment of this week."

Eleven months ago, Amy Mickelson was diagnosed with breast cancer. While the prognosis is good, she's worn down physically. "She didn't feel well and she doesn't have energy," her husband said. "To have her 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."

So, a tournament that started with the focus on a man who com mitted serial adultery, ended with a victory celebration that was much more family friendly.

• Augusta final scores

This has been a trying year for Mickelson, who not only dealt with his wife's illness, but his mother's, too. She also is battling breast cancer. Not surprising that he has been distracted from the game he plays for a living.

Mickelson arrived at Augusta National without a top-five finish all year. But he has always felt as comfortable at this course as any other, winning his first major here in 2004, then another two years later. When his family arrived – Amy, their three kids and his mother – Mickelson knew this might be the week he started playing like himself again.

He opened with a five-under 67. He closed with two more 67s on the weekend. Mickelson played with that same bravado and confidence that has always been his trademark – and often his undoing.

He certainly could have gone either way at the par-five 13th hole, where he followed a birdie putt in Amen Corner that gave him the outright lead by pushing his drive into the trees along the right side of the fairway.

Most golfers would have played it safe, punched out into the fairway to give themselves at least a shot at birdie and no worse than par. But Mickelson saw an opening between the trees and decided to go for the green – 207 yards away – with a six-iron.

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"I had a good lie in the pine needles," Mickelson explained. "I was going to have to go through that gap if I laid up or went for the green. I was going to have to hit a decent shot. The gap was a little bit wider – well, it wasn't huge, but it was big enough for a ball to fit through."

Mickelson ripped away with all his might, watched the ball clear the trees and soar through the air, plopping down four feet from the flag. "I just felt like at that time," he said, "I needed to trust my swing and hit a shot. It came off perfect."

Even though Mickelson missed the short putt and settled for a birdie instead of an eagle, that was the hole where he let it be known this tournament was his. He finished with a 16-under 272, three strokes ahead of Westwood and four ahead of Anthony Kim, who shot 31 on the back side for a closing 65.

"It's one of those shots only Phil could pull off," said Westwood, who started the final round with a one-stroke lead but wound up just missing another major title. "I think most people would have chipped that one out. But that's what great players do: They pull off great shots at the right time."

Mickelson was steady the rest of the way – another birdie at the par-five 15th, pars at the tricky 16th and 17th holes. That way, he could play it safe for once, going with the three-wood at No18 to assure he didn't spray it up in the trees and cost himself a tournament that no-one else could win, but he could still lose.

As the patrons rose to salute a familiar champion who was clearly the sentimental favourite on this day, Mickelson had one person on his mind. She was there, and she was beaming.

"I was just really glad she was there," he said. "I knew she would be watching. I didn't know if she would be behind 18. To walk off the green and share that with her is very emotional for us."

Woods' wife, Elin, would not have been waiting if her husband had won.

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Plenty questioned if world No1 Woods was making the right call, returning from such a long lay-off at the first major of the year, without so much as a warm-up event. Some wondered if he would even make the cut. He did that and so much more, contending for all four days.

But he never made much of a run on Sunday, undone by one wild swing after another and a three-putt bogey from six feet at the 14th hole.

Westwood said there is no need to re-evaluate what he is doing, even though he keeps coming up just short on the biggest stages.

Over the previous seven majors, he finished third three times. Now, he has been a runner-up.

"When you've come close, there's a tinge of disappointment straight off," Westwood said. "I was disappointed walking up to the last green, obviously.

"But once that's passed, I didn't do too much wrong today. I can walk away with a lot of positive thoughts and memories from this Masters."

Indeed, so can Phil Mickelson.