(CNN) -- Winning the Masters for the third time meant the world for Phil Mickelson, but nothing could beat seeing his wife Amy and three kids waiting by the 18th green after he completed an emotional victory on Sunday.
"It was a very special and emotional moment for us because we've been through a lot this last year," the American told CNN after returning to second in the world golf rankings behind Tiger Woods, who tied for fourth on his comeback.
"I was so excited to see her, I wasn't sure if she was going to make it out. To see her and the kids and be able to share that moment with them is something that we'll look back on years from now and cherish."
Mickelson went into the tournament, the first of the golf season's four majors, in less than spectacular form after a traumatic year off the course.
Last May, Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer, then less than two months later his mother Mary was found to have the same affliction and also required surgery.
The 39-year-old took two breaks from the PGA Tour to be with his family, but successfully returned to the circuit to win the Tour Championship in September.
"We've had a lot of difficult moments in this last year, and we've been fortunate in that we've had good long-term outlook," he said. "But our day-to-day has been tough, she's had a lot of side effects from the medicines and the quality of life isn't great.
"I think having something so joyous and exciting and fun for a short while makes you forget some of the symptoms that you have.
"She's been inspiring to me throughout not just this past year, but our whole marriage and relationship. But this past year, especially seeing the way she's tackled this fight and the way she's been through so much medically, I just find her to be a very inspiring individual."
In 2004, Mickelson finally rid himself of the tag "most talented player yet to win a major" with victory at the famous Augusta National club and claimed the green jacket for a second time two years later, having also won the U.S. PGA Championship in 2005.
But Mickelson, nicknamed "Lefty" for his swing despite otherwise being right-handed, said he was still nervous on Sunday despite his previous successes in the Masters as he went into the final round a shot behind Englishman Lee Westwood.
"Oh absolutely, but I love it. It's my favorite thing," he said. "It's the thing that was most difficult early in my career and it's the thing that I enjoy the most.
"I don't sleep the night before and I'm anxious and excited to get out on the course. You have butterflies all day and you just can't wait to get the round started. I still feel all that, but that's what makes Sunday at Augusta so special."
Mickelson said he was confident going into the tournament despite having only one top-10 finish in his previous seven starts in 2010.
"I felt like I was playing this well at the start of the year, I just haven't had the results," he told reporters after his victory.
"I wasn't discouraged, I felt very confident heading in here. Certainly I wanted to have some wins and be in contention, but when I get here to Augusta I get relaxed and comfortable here. I'm in love with this place, it brings out the best in me."