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Commentary by Ramon Presson: Masters of marriage: Phil vs. Tiger

How does anyone really know what was going through Tiger Wood’s mind as he walked the storied golf course at Augusta National this past weekend. After the firestorm he brought upon himself with his adulterous behavior, his marriage fractured and his public image in a splint, Woods had to be pleased with the warm reception he received from the galleries. And for his first tournament since going into exile, the Masters no less, he had to feel good about being in contention throughout the four rounds. The fascination with Tiger’s return was reflected in ESPN reporting that a record 5 million viewers watched the opening round on Thursday.

However on Sunday, with ill-timed bogeys the Tiger saga became the mere sub-plot of a greater drama. Phil Mickelson, co-leader heading into the final round, was seeking his third green jacket at Augusta. But golf wasn’t the only thing on Phil’s mind. His wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 months earlier and had been undergoing treatment. Shortly after Amy’s diagnosis came news that Phil’s mother was also inflicted with the terrible disease. Amy had been unable to travel to any tournament up until the Masters last week. Even so she remained in bed in a rented home near the golf course, too weak to do anything but watch her beloved compete on TV, and greet and congratulate him when he rushed post-round interviews to get home to Amy.

With a two-shot lead in the final round Mickelson played a risky but brilliant shot on #13, driving a ball out of the pine straw between two trees, 200 yards, over a creek and landing four feet from the hole. It was as courageous a shot as you’ll see in golf. And it wasn’t luck. It was immediately heralded by commentators as the shot of his career. During every Master’s telecast from now till eternity you’ll see replays of that shot.

But the most poignant shot of the day would come a few holes later. With his ball safely on the 18th green, with a comfortable lead, Mickelson walked up the 18th fairway amidst thunderous applause, with thousands of spectators around the green and millions of viewers elsewhere feeling the significance and emotion of the moment. Rounds of golf are easy compared to rounds of chemo. This was for Amy. This was for his Mom. This championship was for family. And this one would always be more special than his previous Masters triumphs or any other future golfing victory.

After his birdie putt dropped in to secure the victory, Mickelson and his caddie embraced in celebration and deep understanding. Upon walking off the course toward the scorer’s tent he was greeted by Amy who had willed herself to be present and to stand on the fringe of the 18th green. This is the shot we’ll never forget. Not just the remarkable shot onto the 13th green, but the poignant one behind the 18th. The one where a loving, battle weary, and persevering couple share a lengthy and tearful embrace. The one that symbolizes the vows for better or for worse, in sickness or in health.

I don’t know that Tiger Woods has seen a telecast of that scene or if he has what he thinks about it. I’m inclined to think that it would be difficult for him to watch. Not so much because Phil Mickelson had the championship and green jacket Tiger wanted, but that Phil had the marriage and life that Tiger wished he had, that Phil had been the husband, the man, that Tiger Woods wished he had been…and wonders if he can be. Because winning the Masters will place the world at your feet for a time, but mastering your world is a far greater feat.

Marriage therapist and author, Ramon Presson, is the founder of LifeChange Counseling and the Marriage Center of Franklin ( Reach him at or 319-6450.

Posted on: 4/21/2010


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