The contrasts at the 2010 Masters are too powerful and meaningful to ignore.
The drama of Tiger Woods -- whose return to the field of play was as chronicled as if it were the second coming -- was not the highlight of the hallowed Augusta National tournament.
Yet neither was it Phil Mickelson's birdie putt on 18 Sunday. Or his approach shot from behind a tree that announcers were quick to label the shot of his career (before he missed an eagle putt moments later), nor was it even the magical eagle-eagle-birdie run Saturday during which Lefty forged into contention amid all of his humility and grace.
The shot of the tournament came after play had ended, when a camera zoomed in and caught a tear running down Mick's face as he embraced his wife Amy, who somehow mustered the energy and courage necessary to emerge from weeks of bed rest long enough to congratulate her husband as he captured his third Green Jacket (and now the real race is on: Phil will have a chance to equal Woods' Green Jacket haul next year.)
That private yet oh-so-public moment of Mickelson's embrace with his cancer-stricken wife was so powerful in so many ways, but mostly because it came just 15 minutes after Tiger Woods walked off the 18th green. Alone. No one to greet him and embrace him that home viewers saw. No family. Only the loneliness that comes not with a fourth place finish but with the aftermath of what he has admitted doing to his wife and family with his assorted dalliances.
Tiger Woods didn't need to win the Masters. It'd be OK if he won something else down the road. The Fort Smith Classic or the Knoxville Open or maybe even the John Deere Classic. But not the Masters. It would have simply delivered the wrong message.
But the message that came home with Mick's victory Sunday was that there are good people still left in sports and they are winners both on and off the course. Had Tiger Woods been able to bound back into competition and win the Masters after months of hogging the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons would have simply been wrong. Good must be rewarded. Humility, love of family, common decency and simple good-heartedness -- it is alive today in the world of sports thanks to Sunday's outcome.
Watching Phil Mickelson -- win or lose -- is one of the joys of sport because he is the same -- win or lose. He is a testament to the decency and gentlemanly nature of the sport of golf and the reason it gives us such pleasure; an honorable person, a good family, living a right life and making golf look effortless -- characteristics hundreds of thousands of people strive for every day.