Phil Mickelson is hands down one of the best golfers to ever play the game.
Lefty has amassed 44 wins on the PGA Tour since he turned pro in 1992, good for the ninth-most wins in Tour history, and has won five major championships. He’s been a staple for the United States, too, competing in all but one international team competition since he hopped on the Tour.
While the 49-year-old has plenty of accolades to his name, and doesn’t plan to leave the Tour anytime soon, it was his first major win that finally elevated Mickelson to greatness in the golf world.
To make it even more special, that win came at Augusta National.
The putt to win the green jacket
Ernie Els had already stepped into the clubhouse with a share of the lead when Mickelson stepped onto the 18th green at the 2004 Masters after posting an impressive final round 8-under 67, thanks largely to a pair of eagles during the round.
All Mickelson had to do was drain one last putt to secure the biggest win of his career — one he had been chasing for more than a decade.
18 feet later, as the ball broke right-to-left down the green, Mickelson’s birdie dropped and a massive celebration ensued.
“I jumped so high I almost hit lightning that day,” Mickelson said a decade later, via the New York Post. “Unfortunately, the photographers, they just didn’t time it right, so I felt like that was an unfair assessment of that leap, because I probably could have dunked a basketball if need be.”
That final birdie putt marked Mickelson’s fifth on the back nine that day — and fifth in his final seven holes — after carding three bogeys on the front. He finished with a 3-under 69 and 9-under on the week.
Mickelson’s lengthy quest for a major
Mickelson won his first PGA Tour event in 1991 at the Northern Telecom Open. While he won 21 times between then and his Masters win — including career-best years in 1996 and 2000, where he won four times each season — Mickelson couldn’t get it done at the majors.
The worst part about it, though, was how close he had come so many times.
Since that first win in 1991, Mickelson recorded a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, two second-place finishes at the U.S. Open — the only major he has yet to win — and had come in third four different times at The Masters.
Three of those third-place finishes at Augusta National came in the three consecutive years before he finally took the crown, too.
“Now we can finally stamp him approved,” Davis Love III said after Mickelson’s win in 2004, via Sports Illustrated. “ ... It’s like a coronation.”
In total, it took Mickelson 46 tries at a major to finally win one. The pressure, he said, “had been building for a while.”
“I think it’s because I had been close for almost a decade going back to Shinnecock in ‘95, and a number of Masters through the 2000’s and have had close opportunities and been in the final groups and it just started adding up,” Mickelson said in 2014, via the New York Post. “Nowadays, there’s a couple guys that have been up there three or four times, but over the last few years, it has not been over a decade.
“It took me a lot longer than I thought it would. It took over 10 years of contending and having an opportunity before I finally won.”