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Mickelson gets push from above

Published April 12, 2004

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Phil Mickelson gave an assist to his grandfather for his Masters victory Sunday.

Al Santos died in January at age 97, a month after telling his grandson he felt this finally was the year Mickelson would win a major championship after more than a decade of frustration.

Santos collected all of the tournament flags from Mickelson's other victories but said enough of that, he wanted a major.

Mickelson thought of the conversation after his 18-foot birdie putt at No. 18 fell into the hole for a dramatic victory over Ernie Els.

"As I looked at that putt, Chris DiMarco's putt was on a very similar line, and it was hanging on the left lip and as it got to the hole it just fell off," Mickelson said. "Instead of (mine) falling off, it fell in. I can't help but think he (Santos) pushed it in."

Mickelson said it was fortunate he got the read on the putt from DiMarco.

"It was cool," said DiMarco, who tied for sixth. "Really to be quite honest, I didn't think there was any way he would miss it. It was just time."

DRAMATIC EAGLE: When K.J. Choi holed his second shot from the fairway at the 11th hole, it put him two shots out of the lead. Choi hit a 5-iron from 210 yards that rolled into the cup for a 2. It was the third eagle at the 11th hole in Masters history. Jerry Barber made one in 1962, and Brad Faxon had the other in 2002.

That shot helped Choi make a run at the lead after a poor front nine before eventually finishing third.

"The tournament was very exciting," said Choi, who has two PGA Tour victories, including the 2002 Tampa Bay Classic at Innisbrook. "I was feeling very good."

BEST ROUND: Sergio Garcia was about as upset as a person could be after shooting the low round of the tournament, 6-under-par 66, that briefly moved him into contention.

Garcia was frustrated with what he said was a Masters with very few breaks. He opened with rounds of 72-72-75. On Sunday, he was 5 over for the tournament after a double bogey at No.6, then played the last 12 holes 8 under par.

"I feel like I played well enough to win," said Garcia, who tied for fourth at 285. "That's the majors. It's not all about playing well. You've got to get lucky. You know, a couple of good breaks I think could have made a big difference. Unfortunately, I didn't get them at the right moment."

COMING BACK: A top-16 finish at the Masters assures an invitation next year, which means Casey Wittenberg will be back. Wittenberg, 19, who plays at Oklahoma State and was the runnerup at last year's U.S. Amateur, shot 3-under-par 69 and played the last four holes 4 under par. His back-nine 31 was the best by an amateur in Masters history.

"You couldn't write a better script," said Wittenberg, who captured low amateur honors by finishing tied for 13th. "To play with Tiger (Woods) was unbelievable. I saw his game and how polished he is. ... When you play with these pros, you listen to them talk about how one shot can change your round. That happened to me. You can't ever quit."

Wittenberg changed his round when he hit a 6-iron to a few feet for eagle at the 15th. He followed with consecutive birdies to move into the top 16. It was the best finish by an amateur since Charles Coe in 1962.

Others who assured themselves of a return trip (if they don't qualify in other ways) were Nick Price, who tied for sixth along with Kirk Triplett, who helped assure his place with a hole-in-one at the 16th.

PAR-5 WOES: Woods had a stomach ailment for the first few holes because of something he ate for lunch. He didn't blame that for his poor performance, but he might look at the way he played the par 5s.

He played 16 par 5s in a combined 5 under par, including 1 over par at the eighth. When Woods won in 1997, he was 13-under on par 5s. At his other victories in 2001 and '02, Woods was 9 under and 7 under, respectively.

Woods shot 71 to finish at 290, 2 over par. That ties his total from last year, his worst as a pro. And his tie for 22nd was his worst Masters performance as a pro.

"I'm disappointed because I didn't win," said Woods, who finished 11 strokes behind Mickelson. "I felt like I hit the ball well enough to do it. I didn't make any putts this week. You can't go around here and not putt well."

WATERY 15TH: Vijay Singh probably would love to put a tarp over the water on the par-5 15th. He found it again Sunday, although he recovered to make par. But Singh hit two balls in the water Thursday and made an 8. He hit another there Friday to make 7. Singh, the 2000 Masters champion, played the easiest hole on the course in 4 over par. He tied for sixth.

"I'm very disappointed with the way I did, especially the 15th hole," Singh said. "I had opportunities coming in, I just didn't take them."

BOUNCING BACK: Justin Rose led the Masters for the first two rounds, then shot 81 in the third to fall out of contention. He had a respectable ending, shooting 71 to finish at 290, 2 over.

"It was a roller-coaster week," said Rose, 23, who tied for 22nd in his second Masters. "I learned a lot. It was really a positive experience. It would have been nice to have finished with a couple of birdies. All in all, it was a fun week. Looking back, it was quite positive."

Rose said his reason for remaining upbeat after shooting 81 was simple.

"It's embarrassing enough to shoot 81, and then it'd be worse to make a fool out of yourself and act like an idiot," he said. "It was almost as if you had to smile about it."

AROUND AUGUSTA: There had not been a hole-in-one at the 16th in eight years, and there were seven in the first 67 years of the tournament. On Sunday, there were two within 10 minutes. Padraig Harrington did it first, knocking his tee shot in the cup from 170 yards. In the next group, Triplett followed with another ace. Before those two, the last was by Raymond Floyd in 1996. ... Dade City's Tim Petrovic shot a final-round 78 to complete his first Masters at 300, 12 over par, tied for 41st.

[Last modified April 12, 2004, 01:05:27]

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