2010 Masters: Victory for the Mickelsons

Augusta, Ga. | Jim “Bones” Mackay, the happy-go-lucky, forever-smiling deputy/caddie/sidekick to the Wild Ride known as Phil Mickelson, wanted to explain what winning the 74th Masters meant to his boss and good friend. Only he could not. At least not initially as he leaned wearily on his heavy Callaway staff bag behind the 18th green at Augusta National, the sun not yet sliding behind the tallest pines on what had been another brilliant Masters Sunday.

He had a lump in his throat, and tears brimmed in his eyes. Understandably so.

There are monumental golf victories, major championships, great big trophies and even spiffy green jackets. This one was different. Very different. This one trumped them all, tied together in a pretty pink bow. This was more about a man who’d grown up before us than just a long-hitting, left-handed golfer, about a friendship more than a player-caddie relationship. It’s a love story, too, far transcending birdies and bogeys and all that transpired on another magical week on that beautiful lass of a golf course in northeast Georgia.

“It’s emotional,” said Mackay, struggling. “I don’t know if I can talk.”

And then he collected himself and the words flowed eloquently, and from deep within.

“This, to me, goes way beyond golf,” he said. “To me, it’s about a guy who loves his wife, and they’ve had a really hard year . . . and them finding their ‘new normal.’ And him coming out here, to the place he absolutely loves more than any place in the world, and playing his heart out.”

Playing his heart out? A decade or so ago, some people in golf questioned whether Phil Mickelson even had one of those. He would win every regular-season stop from San Diego to Hartford, and then wilt at the big ones, his rising star of potential never quite illuminating in the sky.

And then there came the leap at Augusta in ’04, a stout Monday close at Baltusrol (PGA) in ’05, another green jacket in Butler Cabin in ’06. Lefty’s major breakthroughs. And with those fairway wins and losses – sprinkled in with the occasional wayward drive off a hospitality tent – Phil Mickelson came to be defined.

That is, until his “other” world was rocked. The love of his life, the ever-so-gracious Amy Mickelson, received two words that turned the Mickelson family dreamscape into real-world reality: Breast cancer. And as if that weren’t enough, life tacked on another cruel twist: Phil’s mom, Mary, has cancer, too. Phil and Amy, who have three children ranging from 7 to 10, have spent most of the past year jetting in and out of Houston for cancer treatments.

“I want to keep this in proper perspective, because a lot of people have stuff going on,” Mackay said. “It’s been a difficult year for the Mickelsons. He’s got a lot on his mind. Like a lot of people, he’s very attached to his wife and kids. They have not traveled with him for months, and I’ve got to think that’s really, really hard. For him to come here this week . . . he didn’t exactly roll in here with all the momentum he would have liked.

“The guy just digs deep. He’s got a lot of heart, that guy.”

As great as it was for Mickelson to see his final birdie putt vanish into the hole, sealing a three-stroke triumph and a third green jacket (44 Long), it paled when he walked off the green to the awaiting embrace of his wife, who’d left the family’s rented home nearby only after watching her hubby go birdie-birdie at 12 and 13.

She especially wanted to see him play the 13th.

“It’s Phil’s favorite hole,” Amy said, smiling, standing outside Butler Cabin.

Amy’s long-term prognosis is good, but she has struggled with her medications, which greatly deplete her strength. Earlier in the week she had little energy, and Sunday, it took an effort to get to the course.

So, what did she and Phil say as they embraced for, oh, forever?

Phil: “Not much was said.” No words needed.

Amy was asked if she believes in karma.

“I’m a believer in a lot of things right now,” she said, pausing to collect her emotions.

Their faithful friend Bones did not need many words, either. The admiration he holds for his boss of 18 years was evident, and it had little to do with how well he strikes a golf ball.

“Twenty years from now, nothing will compare with this, I promise you that,” Mackay said. “Because of everything. God bless all those women who go through what Amy is going through. It ain’t easy – on her, on the kids, on the spouses. It’s a tough, tough deal.

“Down the road, this win means way more to me than any other win we’ve ever had."

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