And he's still smiling
Why not? Mickelson riding high from last year's Masters
By Randall Mell
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
The smile was jarring in its audacity. It was so oddly placed and timed that you had to wonder if Phil Mickelson would finally end up in a green jacket or a straitjacket.
Tied for the lead, he lumbered up the 18th fairway on that Sunday at The Masters a year ago.
Mickelson looked giddy as he made his way to the most important putt of his life, an 18-foot birdie attempt that would end his major championship misery or painfully compound it.
Most mortals would have looked like they were walking into an IRS audit. Nobody smiles like that approaching a putt of such magnitude.
"I didn't know what was going to happen, but I was just really enjoying the entire day," Mickelson after a practice round Tuesday at Augusta National.
"I enjoyed the entire back nine. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to win the tournament. I felt very confident in the way I was playing. I was enjoying the moment."
After that last smooth stroke, after the ball disappeared into the hole, taking all his major championship woes with it, Mickelson's smile never looked more genuine.
Sweeping his curly-locked two-year-old Sophia into the air, he was euphoric with his first major title. "Daddy won, can you believe it?"
With birdies at five of the last seven holes, Mickelson earned a green jacket in a back-nine charge that goes down as one of the best in Masters annals.
He enjoyed the memories with caddie Jim Mackay during Tuesday's practice round.
"My main goal right now is to try to get that lonely jacket a little buddy to hang with it," Mickelson said.
Mickelson, 34, will be looking to try to join Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo as players to win back-to-back Masters in the 69 years of the event.
Sometimes it seems as if Mickelson hasn't stopped smiling since that putt dropped here a year ago.
That smile defines him in so many ways. It is as much magnet as magnetic.
It's a smile with gravitational pull all its own, drawing a legion of devoted fans and skeptics alike. People love that smile. Or they mistrust it.
His fans love his ability to enjoy the moment, whether it's in his long patience signing autographs or tipping his cap between shots.
Others wonder if the smile is too tireless, too practiced, too image-conscious.
"Is that the true Phil?" Vijay Singh asked in a revealing segment on HBO Real Sports last month. "Is that the true person? I don't know."
With a major championship to his credit now, that onerous 0-for-43 run in the majors ended, Mickelson seems to have the perfect life.
He's coming off Monday's victory in a five-man playoff at the BellSouth Classic. His three victories this year lead the PGA Tour. He also leads the tour in winnings ($3,653,456) and scoring average (69.08).
He has gone from the man who couldn't win a major to the man to beat this year.
His wife, Amy, is a former Phoenix Suns cheerleader. They posed together in a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue a few years ago. They have three adorable children.
And Mickelson's rich.
With endorsement deals including Ford and Callaway, BusinessWeek cited analysts estimating his off-the-course income at $20 million this year, second to Tiger Woods ($80 million) among American athletes.
Mickelson's also generous.
He and Amy are active in Start Smart, a program that helps underprivileged children with school supplies, and they're behind the first Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy, a training center under construction for elementary-school science and math teachers.
They're active in numerous charities.
Perfect? No, he hints at something darker in his book, One Magical Sunday.
He recently revealed that he gave up gambling in March of 2003, the day Evan was born. The birth was traumatic, his boy not breathing for seven minutes, his wife hemorrhaging. He told Golf