When Phil Mickelson shed the label of the greatest player to never have won a major at the 2004 Masters Tournament, what followed was a media blitz that included appearances on David Letterman, Oprah, Jay Leno and the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
The only public appearance Mickelson made after this year's Masters victory came the morning after on Washington Road at the drive-thru window of the Krispy Kreme ordering doughnuts.
"Throughout the week I don't eat a lot of sugar or carbs during a tournament," Mickelson said. "My kids wanted doughnuts and I told them Monday morning we'd go to Krispy Kreme and grab something. ... It was a little chilly, so I threw on a jacket and went through the drive-thru."
A green jacket. By the time he flew home to California a few hours later, the picture of him behind the wheel wearing the iconic symbol of an Augusta champion was everywhere on the worldwide web.
"It's fascinating because it just shows how things have changed over the last 20 years," said Mickelson, noting that nobody even had cell phones when he started dating his wife, Amy, in college. "Everybody is media now. The lady behind the counter at Krispy Kreme is media. It's an interesting thing to get used to."
Mickelson returns to his day job and the spotlight this week at the Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte after taking "some great family time."
"I've been a little isolated these last couple of weeks," he said.
The 17 days that have passed since the emotional hug with his wife behind the 18th green hasn't changed Mickelson's mind about the significance of his third Masters and fourth major triumph.
"It's probably the most important victory I've had, and not because I hadn't won a major in four years or what happened at Winged Foot," he said, citing the double bogey finish at the 2006 U.S. Open that lost him the lead. "But because of the emotional tie and the tough years that we had and being able to share it. Amy and I have talked about how glad we were that she was there and the kids were there and we can look back on that together given what the past year has brought. It made it probably the most special tournament win that I've had."
His Masters victory has already recast his own perceptions of a season that started slowly into a success, but Mickelson's satisfaction doesn't end in April.
"I do have high expectations for the rest of the year," Mickelson said. "If I'm not able to perform at that level that I played at Augusta in those big events, I wouldn't look at the year as being great."
The first key goal is eight weeks away when the U.S. Open is played at Pebble Beach, a course Mickelson has won tour events on three times since 1999. He is a five-time runner-up in the U.S. Open in that same span, including last year at Bethpage Black just days before his wife underwent surgery for breast cancer.
"That's a special event for me," he said. "I want to give myself the best opportunity in the U.S. Open. I had a good chance last year and a couple of years I've had great chances and haven't come through. It's the one event I'd love to win and with this tournament being at Pebble I feel like there's a good opportunity there. So I don't want to look past that."
Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219