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On This Date in Sports April 11, 2004: Phil's Masterful Leap

in collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

 

After 17 top-ten finishes, including three second-place finishes, Phil Mickelson wins his first major championship, beating Ernie Els by one stroke to capture the Masters. Mickelson, who had lost major titles by one stroke, wins the Green Jacket with a birdie putt on the final hole, beating Ernie Els by a nine-under-par 279. Phil Mickelson would win two more Masters, along with a PGA and Open Championship.

Phil Mickelson was born on June 16, 1970, in San Diego, California. Raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, Mickelson, a right-hander, learned to play golf left-handed by mirroring his father’s swing. Mickelson would become a star golfer for Arizona State, leading the Sun Devils to a National Championships and winning three individual titles. Mickelson also won the 1990 U.S. Amateur Championship and won Northern Telecom Open in Tucson as an Amateur. He was the first left-handed golfer to win the U.S. Amateur, earning the nickname Lefty. 

Phil Mickelson turned professional in 1992 and quickly became a fan favorite on the PGA Tour. Mickelson finished tied for sixth in the 1993 PGA Championship, and third in 1994. His closest call was in the 1999 U.S. Open, as he lost on the final hole to Payne Stewart. As Tiger Woods dominated the majors, Phil Mickelson was often among the top money winners, as finished in the top ten at 17 major championships. This included second-place finishes in the 2001 PGA Championships and the 2002 U.S. Open. This also included three consecutive third-place finished at Augusta National entering the 2004 Masters. 

Phil Mickelson did not have a great start to his weekend, as he posted a par-72 during the first round. Justin Rose was the leader after 18 holes, shooting a five-under-par 67. Chris DiMarco and Jay Haas were two strokes back at -3. Ernie Els was one of four golfers who shot at 70, while Tiger Woods stumbled with a 75. Meanwhile, defending champion Mike Weir also had a poor start, shoot a seven-over par 79.

Friday was an emotional day at the Augusta National Golf Club, as Arnold Palmer made his last appearance in the Masters, shooting a pair of 84 to finish at +24. Justin Rose continued to lead the field after two rounds, at -6, after 71 in the second round. Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, bean to make his move, shooting a 69 to sit three strokes back. Tiger Woods also had a 69 to get back to par, while Weir, who won the Green Jacket in 2003, failed to make the cut, a two-under 70 on Friday.

Moving day was a big day for Phil Mickelson, as he shot a 69 for the second day in a row to sit at -6. Chris DiMarco would shoot a 68 and was tied for the lead, with Mickelson after 54 holes. Justin Rose, who led after the first two rounds, had a nightmarish Saturday, shooting 81, with nine bogeys to plummet down the leaderboard and out of contention. While Mickelson and DiMarco held a share of the lead, Paul Casey was two strokes back at -4, while Ernie Els was among three golfers at -3. Tiger Woods meanwhile faded with a 75. 

Sunday at the Masters saw Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco each record a birdie on the second hole to get to -7. Both would give the stroke back on the third hole with a bogey. Mickelson would bogey three of four holes on the front nine. As Mickelson bean to stumble, Ernie Els was making his move taking a one-stroke lead with an eagle on the eighth hole. 

Ernie Els had a one-stroke lead over Phil Mickelson and Bernhard Lager at -5. Els appeared to be on a historic to the Green Jacket with an eagle on the 13th hole. Now down three strokes, Phil Mickelson appeared to be heading for another major letdown trailing by three strokes as he played the 12th hole. This when things would get interesting, as Mickelson had three at amen corner to get back a share of the lead. A share that would not last long, as Els got to -8 with a birdie on the 15th hole. On the par-three 16th hole, Phil Mickelson had a dramatic 20-foot birdie putt to match Els, setting up an exciting finish.

Ernie Els parred out the rest of his round, shooting a final four 67, to finish at eight-under-par at 280. Phil Mickelson, in the final pairing, knew what he had to do. After a par of the 17th hole, Mickelson placed the ball in the fairway off the tee, setting up a dramatic approach shot that would lead the way to victory. The second shot on the par-four landed perfectly on the green, giving Phil a makeable birdie putt. With still silence, all watched as the putt went in the hole, and Mickelson did a jump for joy as 2004 Masters Champion.