2020 Masters Choose Your Own Adventure, Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson: Vintage Lefty
Harry How/Getty Images for The Match
Mickelson goes the entire round without a par.
Some non-pars are better than others. That’s really just a semi-fancy way of saying that birdies are better than bogeys, which is the first thing any golf neophyte should learn.
Mickelson knows it better than anyone else; he’s the purveyor of so many circles and squares on so many scorecards during a professional career which has now spanned more than a quarter-century.
This season alone, he’s averaging 3.96 birdies per round and 2.48 bogeys – numbers which don’t quite put him near the top in either category, but at least prove that he’s still among the most likely players to post a score other than par on any given hole.
OK, but this is getting ridiculous.
Following a front-nine 36 that didn’t include a single par, Mickelson looks to rectify that by finding some stability on the back-nine. Instead, he opens with a 3-putt bogey on 10, adds another after missing the green on 11, then finds the back bunker on 12 for a fourth in a row.
Most players would be out of the tournament at that point, if not mathematically then at least mentally, knowing that four consecutive bogeys during the final round of the Masters is a death knell for anybody’s chances.
Mickelson isn’t most players.
He bounces back with a brilliant eagle from the trees on 13 – just like that famous shot from a decade ago, but he makes the putt this time – then a birdie on 14 and another eagle on 15.
Just like that, Mickelson is 2-under for the back-nine, despite opening with three straight bogeys.
“Inconceivable!” yells one fan.
“Unbelievable!” screams another.
You decide to join in on the fun, consulting your mind’s thesaurus and offering a lusty, “Incomprehensible!” that one draws a few chuckles from the crowd.
But Phil has a difficult time handling prosperity.
He bogeys the 16th hole and then bogeys the 17th, too.
He arrives at the 18th tee without a single par, yet he’s still even-par on the scorecard. More importantly, he is tied for the lead. A birdie here will give him the victory, a first par for the round will force a playoff and a bogey will mean he loses.
Surveying the spectators around you, it’s unanimous that this is either going to be a birdie or a bogey – there’s no in between, not now. This is going to be all or nothing.
And you’re right: Mickelson pummels a drive, knocks an approach to 18 feet – just like he had during his first Masters win in 2004 – and drills it for birdie.
The crowd goes nuts for not only his fourth Masters win, but the most, well, incomprehensible major championship final round in history.
You get close enough as Mickelson is doing a TV interview afterward that you can hear him say, “I really thought I played a nice, steady round of golf today.” He then offers a wink to the camera and tugs on the sleeves of his familiar green jacket.