Phil Mickelson wasn't going to let this one get away.
"I knew it was my day," he said, and then he went out and made sure it was.
Mickelson shot a final-round 69 on Sunday to win the Masters Tournament by one shot with a 9-under-par 279 total and bring to a fitting conclusion a remarkable week at Augusta National Golf Club.
Mickelson etched a spot for himself in Masters history when he shot 31 on the back nine - the lowest final round back nine by a winner since Jack Nicklaus shot 30 in 1986.
Mickelson is the second consecutive left-hander to win the Green Jacket, succeeding Canadian Mike Weir.
Mickelson arrived at the 72nd hole of the tournament needing a par to tie Els for the title and a birdie 3 to win it. He used a 3-wood off the tee, found the fairway, and hit his approach shot directly over the flagstick, some 18 feet beyond the hole. He made the birdie putt for the victory.
"In the past 10 years, to come so close so many times, 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," Mickelson said.
"Winning this tournament, the reason it's so special is that now I get to be a part of this great event for the rest of my life. I'll be back here every first week of April and I will look forward to this tournament every year for the rest of my life."
Els played brilliantly, too. He went out in 34 and was 6-under-par over the final 12 holes. He shot 280.
Korea's K.J. Choi was third at 282 on the strength of a final round 69, which included an eagle 2 on the 11th hole. Sergio Garcia of Spain posted the best round of the championship, 66, to tie for fourth with two-time winner Bernhard Langer (72) at 285.
Before Mickelson moved to center stage, Masters week honored the legendary Arnold Palmer, a four-time winner who played in his 50th and final appearance at Augusta National Golf Club.
Mickelson, like Palmer a huge favorite among the galleries, started the final round as co-leader with Chris DiMarco at 6-under-par. Both struggled at the beginning. Mickelson was 2-over on his first nine holes while Els, playing two groups ahead, was making a charge.
"When I was on No. 12, just before I hit, I heard that Ernie had just made eagle," Mickelson said.
It left Els at 7-under for the tournament. At that point, Mickelson had been bogged down at 4-under for six holes. "I heard the roar (emanating from Els' gallery)," Mickelson said. "I didn't know what had happened but I figured he had just made eagle. I took a pretty aggressive line at that pin. Nobody goes after that pin and I took a pretty aggressive line, knocked it in there about 12 feet and made the putt. If I could make that putt, all I'd have to do was make birdie at No. 13 and I would be within a shot with five holes to go. "When that putt on 12 went in, that's when I started to feel like I could make this happen."
Els was disappointed with the outcome, naturally, but pleased with his performance. "I did what I had to do," he said. "I put the ball in play and gave myself opportunities.
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