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Mickelson Tops Tiger At Pebble Beach

Johnie Freatman |
February 14, 2012 | 3:26 p.m. PST

Staff Writer


Mickelson said he loves playing alongside Tiger. (Wikimedia Commons)
Mickelson said he loves playing alongside Tiger. (Wikimedia Commons)
With a scintillating final round 64, Phil Mickelson passed Tiger Woods and others to win The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on a landmark day at the famed golf links.

The win was the 40th of Mickelson’s PGA Tour career, a feat that only eight others in the history of the PGA Tour have accomplished.

"Pebble Beach ... it feels awesome no matter what number it is," said Mickelson.

Entering the day, many thought Woods would be the one adding to his victory total and breaking a winless drought on the PGA Tour that now spans 30 months.

Paired with longtime rival Mickelson, he failed to get much going and his round was derailed by three straight bogeys to finish the front nine.

Though Woods provided a momentary jolt through the crowd when he holed out a bunker shot on the 12th hole, his performance on the greens was abysmal on the way to shooting a 75, the second straight week he has faltered in the final round with a chance to win.

"I didn't hit it as bad as the score indicated, but I putted awful. As good as I felt on the greens yesterday, I felt bad today,” said Woods.

The person who seemingly couldn’t miss a putt was Mickelson. He got off to a roaring start with birdies on three of the first five holes and, as overnight leader Charlie Wi struggled early on, he took the lead on the sixth with a long putt for eagle.

Though he made three birdies on the back nine, the defining moments of the tournament came when Mickelson answered Woods’ bunker hole out with a 30-foot par save at 12 and a 40-footer at 15 to preserve his bogey-free round.

A series of bogeys cost Tiger a shot at the win. (Wikimedia Commons)
A series of bogeys cost Tiger a shot at the win. (Wikimedia Commons)
Mickelson has spoken at times recently about lapses in focus but he was dialed in playing in the same group as Woods, who Mickelson says “brings out the best in me.”

This was a sentiment shared by Mickelson’s wife, Amy.

"Why does he love to play with Tiger?" she said. "Because they have a history. I'm sure Tiger wanted to play with Phil, too. Let me put it that way."

This “history” is a well-documented one. Though the two best players of this era may share a respect for each other, nobody would describe them as friends. 

While their head-to-head matchups in the past tended to be one-sided affairs favoring Woods, Mickelson has turned the tables, besting Woods the last five times the two have played in the same group in a final round, though none nearly as resounding as the 11 shot thumping Mickelson provided Sunday.

Many believe this has been due to the presence of Mickelson’s coach Butch Harmon, who has been with the left-hander since 2007 and was previously unceremoniously fired by Woods. There have been reports that Harmon has clued Mickelson in to Woods’ subtle gamesmanship tactics and given him the confidence to take down the formerly indomitable Woods.

When asked about this, Mickelson offered a wry smile before finally responding “Possibly,” unsuccessfully trying to conceal the obvious.

While Woods had been in the fold at recent tournaments, Mickelson had struggled in the beginning of his 2012 campaign, failing to record a single top-25 finish in his first three starts of the season. This made the victory even sweeter.

"It's one of the more emotional victories for me that I've had," Mickelson said. "And the reason is that I've had some doubts these last couple of weeks, given the scores that I've shot. … So this gives me a lot of confidence and erases the doubt."

If Mickelson had doubt, many others did too. Now 41 years old, an age where many players begin to see their skills decline, he had fallen to number 17 in the Official World Golf Ranking, his lowest in years. With an induction into the Hall of Fame pending in May, some thought his greatest golf had passed.

However, Sunday’s resounding triumph has given Mickelson a renewed outlook for the future.

“I'm very proud to be in the Hall of Fame but I also feel as though I want to look ahead. Right now I'm looking ahead because I feel like I have the ability to play some of my best golf.”


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