2004 Masters: Lefty breaks through

March, 22, 2011

Phil Mickelson all but had the initials monogrammed on his shirts and sewn into his underwear.


For those who can't recall a time when Mickelson didn't own any of the game's four most important pieces of hardware, the acronym stands for Best Player To Have Never Won A Major.

For most of the second half of his first 42 career professional major championship appearances, the unsinkable left-hander was saddled with that label -- a nod to both his prowess among the game's elite and his inability to win the big one.

Masters Top 25 Moment -- No. 13

Oh, there were chances. Plenty of 'em, in fact. In 1999, Mickelson led with three holes to play at the U.S. Open but lost to Payne Stewart. Two years later at the PGA Championship, he was upended by a single stroke by David Toms.

Entering the first major of 2004, Mickelson owned 17 top-10 results in those 42 major appearances as a pro, including eight finishes of third or better. Two months shy of his 34th birthday, it seemed the effervescent fan favorite might be destined for career-long bridesmaid status, the American equivalent of Europe's oft-snakebitten Colin Montgomerie.

Instead, it all came together at Augusta National.

After rounds of 72-69-69, Mickelson was in the driver's seat on Sunday. It wasn't so easy, though. After a birdie on the second hole, he bogeyed three of his next four and made the turn in 2-over 38. It was the back nine, however, where he conjured memories of Jack Nicklaus in 1986.

Starting on the 12th hole, he birdied four out of five and shared the lead while playing the final hole. Striking his approach shot to within 18 feet of the hole, Mickelson had one putt to shed that label and erase the acronym forever.

He made it.

Punctuated by a short but dramatic celebratory leap, Mickelson became the fourth champion in Masters history to claim the title with a final-hole birdie putt.

"I think having, in the past 10 years, come so close so many times," Mickelson said afterward, "to have had putts made on me in the last holes to lose by a shot, to have had good last rounds fall short, to have bad last rounds and fall short, to have it be such a difficult journey to win my first major, makes it that much more special, sweeter, and it just feels awesome."

For an interactive timeline of classic moments in Masters history, check out Masters.com.

Jason Sobel covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

Jason Sobel | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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