It was the skinny hours of Monday morning in Augusta, and Phil Mickelson was sporting his favorite new look: black sweats, black T-shirt, white socks, Arizona Diamondbacks hat and a new green jacket. "I don't mean to be disrespectful," he said in his Wally Cleaver way, "but I just can't take it off!"
A waning bottle of champagne stood on the chairside table while Mickelson himself was on the tube, having the greatest golf day of his life over and over. Ten, 20, 30 times during the night the toast would go up in the rented house, and it was always the same: Someone would raise a glass and say with heartfelt emotion, "Heeeyaaawhoooooo!"
To which Mickelson, his family and friends would raise glasses and answer, regally, "Heeeyaaawhoooooo!"
Well, hell, if it were you, wouldn't you do the same?
If it had taken you 47 tries to win a major, if the monkey had been not just on your back but in your shaving mirror every morning and in every golf writer's laptop at each major for 13 years, wouldn't you go a little berserko when it finally buggered off?
If it were you, and a little more than a year ago your tiny wife, Amy, had torn an artery during childbirth and had nearly died, and your newborn son, Evan, had gone seven minutes without a breath, and everybody was now healthy, wouldn't you party like it was 2099, too?
This was a man coming off his worst year as a pro: For the first time since 1999, he didn't win a tournament. This was a man for whom the press kept howling, Taxi for Mr. Mickelson!
But this Masters was Mickelson's moment. After the doctors had finally pronounced everybody fine, this was what he focused his will upon: rededicating himself to greatness.
Whereas Tiger Woods got rid of his one coach, Mickelson employed two—Rick Smith for swing and Dave Pelz for short game. He took up Krav Maga, a martial art. He lost 15 pounds. He started arriving at tournaments an extra hour and a half early. He decided to explore a new area of golf, heretofore unknown to him: the fairway.
In fact, on Saturday, after Mickelson had spent the day hitting all but four fairways, shooting 69 to take a share of the lead, Amy greeted him with, "Honey, I miss you lately. You never hit it over by the ropes anymore."