Jon Rahm won the green jacket and retained the number one ranking in the world. He rallied from four down to overtake Brooks Koepka and grab a lead he never surrendered and became the fourth Spaniard to win the Masters(Seve, Jose Maria, Sergio). Rahm has been dominant winning five of the last 13 events he has played and finished in the top 10 in 13 events.
But there was Phil Mickelson on Sunday. After a third round 75 Mickelson was looking like an afterthought after sitting four-under midway through the tournament. The crowd that has loved Phil for what he has done on the hallowed grounds of Augusta National rekindled a relationship despite Mickelson being the face of LIV and all the noise that has come with it. Yet, Mickelson had one of those rounds he will forever remember and imagine what it would have been if he was not viewed as the enemy.
Mickelson shot one of the best final rounds at the Masters ever. He shot 65, including 31 on the back-nine and finished in second place behind Rahm. He birdied five of the final seven holes, including birdies on 17 and 18.
The patrons applauded and Phil nodded with appreciation, but it wasn't the same. There was and is a level of awkwardness that fills the air. Fair or not, Phil is labeled and walks with a scarlet letter image. He's Phil Mickelson- three-time winner of the Masters- but he's also the guy who gave us LIV(with Greg Norman) and openly recruited other top players to a tour that has ruffled feathers for the sport.
I am not bothered that LIV exists and have written and talked much about the tour, its funding, media coverage and golfers who have chosen to leave the PGA Tour. If you don't watch LIV, that's your choice. If you root against their players, that's your choice. If you think the PGA didn't react to much of LIV's moves, then your head is in the sand.
In fact, I think and hope that some of the golf media snobs who have so openly attacked LIV players loosen up a bit. I think Brooks Koepka may have helped by leading through three rounds. Koepka, when healthy, is still one of the best players in the world. For three rounds and a few holes he proved that. Add Mickelson and Patrick Reed's play and LIV clogged the leaderboard late on Sunday.
But what if Phil never took the money? What if he had no debts to pay and what if the PGA Tour actually listened to some of his thoughts on issues they eventually reacted to? What if Mickelson had decided to ease up on his PGA schedule and become the top analyst in the booth for CBS alongside Jim Nantz? What if Phil negotiated with CBS to play in the majors and a few non-CBS events?
Mickelson was viewed as a star in the making in the booth. He had done some TV work and the thought was networks would have lined up to sign him. With today's NFL color analysts making $10-18M, Mickelson could have landed a similar deal and added as much if not double in endorsements.
If all that actually happened, now imagine that walk down 18 for Phil yesterday. Instead of polite applause, it would have been a roar that mirrored his previous Sunday's where he won. The adopted Augusta son would have been celebrated as someone who became the oldest Masters' runner up ever and a story that could've been as big as Rahm winning his first green jacket.
I can't say CBS made a concerted effort to not show Phil as much as many believe. I think his run came as the round was developing and CBS didn't think his score would keep him in contention, but it did. There was Nantz making the comment- "there's Phil on the CW....the crosswalk". Whether intentional or not- and I think intentional- that became a twitter volcano. LIV airs on the CW as it struggled to gain an audience. Worth noting, CBS owns 12,5% of the CW.
Mickelson enjoyed the moment as he should. He handled the post-round media session with class and the media was fair to Phil. He talked about the round not being a fluke and that he feels he is healthy and ready to continue his solid play. Maybe he will. His next events on LIV are in Australia and Singapore. He will play the PGA Championship next month and the US Open and Open Championship after. But it will always feel odd.
I am guessing Mickelson isn't the only LIV golfer who wonders what if. Yes, they took the money and maybe Phil needed to. But I do wonder what Brooks Koepka thinks. He even admitted his injuries in recent years swayed him to choose to play on LIV. If he was healthy and on top of his game, I don't think Koepka would have jumped to LIV. Patrick Reed? Who knows. Likely no one on the PGA misses him. But even Reed has to wonder if it was worth it. Maybe he feels it was and he's at peace.
Someday a LIV golfer will win a major and it will be a big story. Maybe someday no one will care if a PGA or LIV golfer wins one of the biggest tournaments each year. But I do think on Sunday when he was turning the clock back and looking like the once dominant player he was, Phil Mickelson knew the cheers were different and wished it could have been like the good old days, when everyone loved Phil Mickelson...
Nuggets: The Magic finish 34-48 and have a 9% chance of landing the top pick in the draft. The Pistons, Spurs and Rockets each have a 14% chance of landing Victor Wembanyama...Don't ask the guy down the hall in your office to explain the play-in round of the NBA Playoffs. He has no idea...John Rhys Plumlee's week was busy going back and forth between UCF football practice and playing baseball. Thursday morning Plumlee participated in the football scrimmage then hopped on a jet to fly to Greenville, North Carolina. He landed at 12:56p and made it to the stadium by 1:20p and was in the starting lineup for first pitch at 2p as UCF began a doubleheader at East Carolina. The doubleheader ended after 8:30p Thursday night and Plumlee was in the lineup for a Friday noon game in the middle of a driving rain with 15-20MPH winds and a wind chill in the 40s. When the bus pulled out at 7a Saturday morning to head to the airport, Plumlee was smiling and ready to get back home for a week ahead that includes football practice Tuesday, a baseball game Tuesday night at Stetson in Deland and a baseball game Friday at 5p and a spring football game at 7:30p before baseball on Saturday and Sunday...The Guardians have a 0.2% chance of winning the NBA Lottery...I am knee deep in NFL mock drafts and without a doubt Anthony Richardson is the big winner. He is not going first in the draft but he won the off-season. Despite a rocky season in Gainesville, Richardson should expect to go in the top 10 and maybe the top 5. Not bad for someone whose on-field performance might give him a third round grade, but Richardson did everything he needed to do in workouts, combines and interviews and he proves it's not all about the film but about the projected talent...Finally, I was in an exit row Saturday flying back from North Carolina. The stewardess asked all of us if we are willing to assist in the event of an emergency. I, and others, stated yes. Then someone asked not one but two questions about emergency exiting procedures. And took down notes. I was not sure if I should feel good or nervous about the guy but I have to admit that was a first. The good news is he was not called into action as the plane landed safely...
Final note: The oldest roller coaster in the US is Leap-the-Dips in Lakemont Park in Altoona Pennsylvania. It opened in 1902.