AUGUSTA, Ga. - All along, it was clear that this week at the Masters was going to be all about comebacks. Sure enough, there was one that golf will not soon forget. One of the most popular and compelling figures in the game finally did return.
And golf said, "Welcome back, Amy Mickelson."
She made her first public appearance since being diagnosed with breast cancer last May and was a welcome sight behind the 18th green, especially to her husband, Phil, who wrapped her in a long embrace and cried just after he holed his final putt to win his third Masters.
Mickelson's family and support team were there for the emotional finish to a thrilling tournament. With a 67 Sunday for a 16-under-par total of 272, Mickelson finished three strokes ahead of Lee Westwood.
The triumph represented a couple of big comebacks for Mickelson himself. He rebounded from a poor start to his season and he finally came back from the disappointment of losing the 2006 U.S. Open on the final hole.
He put himself back into the conversation about all-time elite golfers. The four-time major winner has three Masters green jackets, tying him with Jimmy Demaret, Sam Snead, Gary Player and Nick Faldo.
Mickelson did it, of course, at the conclusion of a tournament that seemed destined to be known as the one in which Tiger Woods made his comeback. Woods tied for fourth at 11 under, one stroke behind Anthony Kim.
In the end, though, all eyes were on Amy, especially the misty eyes of people close to Mickelson, such as caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay. "Bones has been as good a friend as you can possibly imagine through this," Mickelson said. "He has been there in Houston, [for] our surgeries, and has been there as support."
Amy's post-surgical medication has left her too weak to walk amid the galleries, as she always has done since they started going out in 1992.
"I've been trying to stay at the house and rest so that I wouldn't get sick," she said outside Butler Cabin after the awards ceremony. "Probably if I would have been here, it would have been too much. And then I just wanted him to focus on winning the Masters and not worry if I was sick or out there walking and wasn't doing well."
She had been at the family's rented house since Tuesday, watching the Masters on TV. She was watching Sunday with Mackay's wife, Jen, and other friends and family members.
"I started crying at the house on 12," she said, referring to the 20-foot putt for a birdie 2 that put him one shot up on K.J. Choi. "Twelve, I thought, was kind of him taking control."
Mickelson, in fact, never was caught after that. Pumped up by that putt, he went to 13 and made a shot that will rank as one of the most daring and successful of his career. He decided to go for the green on the par-5 hole even though he was behind two trees and was hitting off pine straw. He threaded a 207-yard 6-iron through a narrow gap between tall pines, knocking it on the green and making a birdie.
"A great shot is when you pull it off," Mickelson said. "A smart shot is when you don't have the guts to try it."
Amy's response: "I was thinking, 'Oh my gosh, he's thinking of going for it.' You know, I like that in him. I know people say that sometimes it's a mistake, why did he do that, but I don't. I believe in him. I've seen shots like that in so many tournaments. A lot of those shots are the reason he has so many victories."
Right then, Amy decided to go for it, too. She and the rest of her group were in the car when Phil was on 14. She was at the course to see his walk up 18, to hear the roar, to feel the embrace.
There is no telling if Mickelson played better because his wife was with him. What is certain is that he enjoyed the celebration much more than he would have alone. "This means so much to us, to be able to share this type of jubilation," he said. "I don't know what word to describe how excited I am, we are."
How about "karma?" Amy was asked if she believes in it. She paused, choked up and spoke with her silence.