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The house that Phil built: Mickelson’s masterpiece

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By Pete Pappas

GolfWRX Staff Writer

Pebble Beach Golf Links the house that Phil built?  It sure is beginning to look that way

With a historically dominating performance on Sunday, Phil Mickelson won the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for the fourth time in his career, and in the 75-year history of the event, only five-time winner Mark O’Meara has won more times.

The awe-inspiring win was Lefty’s 40th career PGA Tour victory, leaping him over World Golf Hall of Fame member Tom Watson like one of his patented flop shots, and into ninth place on the all-time PGA Tour wins list.

Anyone who thought it was time to stick a fork in Mickelson’s career before this tournament began might want to consider putting that fork away.

Better yet, just throw the fork away.

Mickelson finished 17-under par, and shot a low round 8-under 64 on Sunday, hitting a near perfect 13 of 14 fairways, and needing only 26 putts en route to erasing leader Charlie Wi’s six-stroke lead when the day began.

“Being able to play the way I did these last 18 holes really means a lot,” said Mickelson.  “It feels awesome.”

Wi finished in second place (15-under) two shots behind Mickelson, largely on the strength of three consecutive birdies at No. 16, No. 17, and No. 18.  But a double-bogey on No.1, and bogeys on No. 5 and No. 6, dropped Wi out of contention from the start.

The highly anticipated head-to-head duel between Mickelson and Tiger Woods, paired for just the 10th time in their careers on the final day, turned out to be more lopsided than anyone could have imagined.  Mickelson finished a whopping 11 strokes better than Tiger on Sunday, and improved his final round record against Woods to 6-3-1, winning the last five times the two have met.

Or as Phil’s wife Amy beamed, behind the 18th green as she hugged him, “Are you kidding me?”

It’s been said in the media, and candidly admitted by Mickelson, that Phil needs Tiger around to play his best.  And unfortunately for Woods, Mickelson’s juggernaut masterpiece on Sunday at Pebble just might be compelling testimony that it’s true.

Mickelson’s thumping of Woods began early, right out of the box at No. 1.  With birdies on No. 2, No. 4, and No. 5, Phil was a maestro with his flat stick, sinking putts of all distances, in all situations, seemingly at will.

But it was a Mickelson eagle on No. 6 that would omen the staggering downward spiral for Woods.  Tiger followed with three consecutive bogeys to close out the front nine, and never looked quite comfortable after that, particularly with his putter, finishing with 31 putts for the round.

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

Tiger did not go down quietly however.  Deflated but not defeated, Woods made a spectacular birdie, holing out from the greenside bunker on No. 12, and to the delight of the Pebble faithful, the famed Tiger fist pump made a triumphant appearance.

It appeared momentum had shifted to Tiger.  But that apparent momentum shift disappeared in the Pacific winds just moments later, and what Phil did next probably left Tiger thinking, “I just can’t win.”

Facing an imposing 30 foot putt and staring bogey dead in its loathsome eyes, Mickelson did the inconceivable.  Bottom cup, double-fist pump, par save.

Phil had just T.K.O’d Tiger.  And the tournament for Woods, was over.

Fairly or not, Tiger’s performance will undoubtedly re-open discussions and debates about his ability to finish tournaments (T-19th place).  It seems not so long ago he was an assassin on Sundays, a sure bet to win as long as he was near the top of the leader board.

Now it seems final round performances like at Abu Dhabi and Pebble are the norm for Tiger, and not the exception.

“I thought I had to shoot 67 to 66.  But that wouldn’t have been good enough,” Woods said with a tired smile.  A candid assessment from a man who undoubtedly will again be the subject of renewed scrutiny, still searching for his first official PGA Tour win in more than two years.

Mickelson meanwhile not only showed that he can still get it done on the final day, but that his putting stroke is back with a vengeance.  And that bodes very well for him with Augusta National and the Masters on his mind and approaching in April.

“It just feels amazing, because I felt like my game was there, but I came out the first couple weeks and shot horrendous scores, and it made me question it,” Mickelson said.

Question it no more Mr. Mickelson.  And put a fork in that.

Additional Notes:

Mickelson used his new Callaway Golf RAZR Fit driver for a 93% driving accuracy on Sunday, and earned $1,152,000 for his victory, moving him to fifth place in the FedExCup standings.

Ricky Barnes finished five-under on Sunday, jumping up six spots, good enough for a third place finish at 13-under.

Kevin Streelman (nine-under) was just one stroke back at the turn, but closed bogey, bogey, double-bogey at No. 16, No. 17, and No. 18 to finish in a disappointing tie for ninth place.

Kevin Na (11-under), and Dustin Johnson (11-under) finished in a tie for fifth place, both shooting two-under on the day.

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Pete is a journalist, commentator, and interviewer covering the PGA Tour, new equipment releases, and the latest golf fashions. Pete's also a radio and television personality who's appeared multiple times on ESPN radio, and Fox Sports All Bets Are Off. And when he's not running down a story, he's at the range working on his game. Above all else, Pete's the proud son of a courageous mom who battled pancreatic cancer much longer than anyone expected. You can follow Pete on twitter @PGAPappas

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Will o'the Glen

    Nov 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Phil’s birdie putt at 12 in the final round is my all-time favorite Pebble Beach moment. That is what’s called “stepping on his neck” !

  2. melsantacruz

    Feb 13, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    I F’ing love Lefty! What a great day for my DVR.

  3. phizzy

    Feb 13, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Phil deserved the victory. I’m extremely happy to see him in the winner’s circle again after his recent bumps in the road with all the events in his family life. Congrats Phil and hopefully there are more victories before the year is over!!!

  4. Mike

    Feb 13, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Tiger continues to be the victim of his own bad thinking.

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Tour Mash: Rahm wins in Dubai, Cook sizzles to victory

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Two more points races reached their end this weekend. The LPGA season culminated in Florida with the Race to the CME Globe, while the European Tour concluded its Race to Dubai in, where else? Dubai! The PGA Tour played its final event until the new year, in Georgia, while the Ladies European Tour played its Sanya Open in China. Before American Thanksgiving revelry and remembrance set in, it’s time for one more tour mash.

LPGA Tour: A day of twos ends in a win for Ariya

Ariya Jutanugarn birdied her final two holes to win the CME Tour Championship. She was given the opportunity to win in regulation when Lexi Thompson pushed a 2-foot putt for par at the last. Although Thompson did not win the year’s final event, she captured 2 titles of her own: Vare Trophy for low scoring average and Race To CME Globe, the season’s points race.

How Ariya Jutanugarn tasted victory

The power game has arrived on the LPGA Tour, in case you missed it. Golfers such as Lexi, Ariya and Sung Hyun Park obliterate the orb, leaving little yardage to the green. When her game is firing, Ariya Jutanugarn is unstoppable. After bogey at the first hole on Sunday, the young golfer from Thailand etched six birdies into the final 17 holes, for a second-consecutive 67. Her birdie at the last came from 23 feet, an amazing putt to hole with victory on the line. Down it went, and up went the smile of a champion.

How the rest came up just shy of a win

With eerie similarity, Lexi Thompson’s card was the flip side of Ariya’s. Thompson made six birdies over her first 17 holes, but the hiccough at the last, her only bogey on the day, dropped her to 14-under par and opened the door for Jutanugarn. Thompson was on absolute fire on Sunday, hitting all 14 fairways and using the putter 28 times. Ariya, Kim Kaufman, Michelle Wie and Suzann Pettersen stood tied atop at 10-under, heading into round 4. Pettersen’s 72, Kaufman’s 71 and Wie’s 70 were simply not enough to keep pace with those coming from behind on Sunday. Ariya, however, was up to the challenge.

European Tour: Rahm wins in Dubai and Fleetwood breathes again

For a time, it seemed as though Justin Rose would win his third consecutive event in Europe and would squeeze past Fleetwood for the season points title. The former Englishman was in the midst of the greatest scoring run of his career, while the later Englishman seemed to have little petrol left in the tank. Then the back nine on Sunday happened, and everything changed.

How Jon Rahm won the DP World Tour

Shane Lowry made 10 birdies on Sunday, but he had one bogey. Rahm had half as many birdies and zero bogeys, and that last number made the difference. The young Basque played a stellar 132 over the closing 36 holes, eclipsed only by Lowry’s 131. Rahm fearlessly navigated his way around the Jumeirah Estates course, eeking out a one-shot win over Lowry and also hard-charging Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

How the others went home trophy-less

We all want to know about Rose. four birdies on the outward 9-holes staked him to a lead, and the greatest season comeback on a major tour was nearly written. With only three bogeys in his first 63 holes, Rose proceeded to bogey 12, 14 and 16, with only a birdie at the last to bring him to 17-under. He ended up two behind Rahm, and in second place in the Race to Dubai points race. It was a glorious campaign for Rose, and cements him as world player to watch in 2018. The Englishman tied for fourth with Sergio Garcia, Dean Burmeister and Dylan Fritelli, both of South Africa, on 17-under par.

PGA Tour: Cook collects First Tour win in Georgia

Fall is a time for young aspirants to make a mark on the PGA Tour. Austin Cook followed the script, birdieing 3-of-his-final-4 holes to stretch a single-shot lead into a four-stroke triumph. J.J. Spaun, a Web.Com tour graduate in 2017, was in the mix for the second consecutive week. He played well down the stretch, and earned a runner-up finish.

How Cook caught fire

Austin Cook played a veteran front-nine, with one bogey and one birdie. None of the chasers caught him, so the Arkansas alum continued to manage his game in the fairways-greens style. On the inward half, Cook took charge, with birdies at 15, 17 and 18, to move well in front of the runner-up. With the precision of a surgeon, Cook took apart the Sea Island course in impressive fashion. After his second-round 62, many expected him to have one weak round on the weekend, but 66-67 showed the his mettle.

How the others flamed out

Spaun really didn’t flame out, not like last week, when he caught the double-bogey train. A proven winner on other tours, Spaun should win in 2018. His game was solid, mixing in more birdies than bogeys, and his second-place finish was well-earned. Brian Gay might have been more comfortable than any other golfer this week, but he was just as erratic. Case in point: back nine. From holes 13 to 18, Gay made one birdie, two eagles, two pars and one double. Still, his numbers were low enough to secure solo third, one stroke behind Spaun and two in front of the fourth-place finishers.

Ladies European Tour: Boutier sizzles on back nine for win

Celine Boutier imagined a top-10 or top-5 when the third day dawned at Yalong Bay, in China. After bogeys on holes 4 and 5, she needed to gather herself in order to preserve her standing. From this day forward, “gather herself” in the dictionary will forever show a picture of Celine Boutier. Her six-birdie finish vaulted her past all challengers, to her first European Tour victory.

How Boutier bloomed

The recent Duke University graduate posted three rounds in the 60s, the only competitor to achieve that distinction at the Sanya Open. The Frenchwoman didn’t make a bogey until the 15th hole of her second round, but she was stuck in neutral from that hole through the 9th hole on Sunday, making only pars and bogeys. Something clicked at the turn, and Boutier regained the confidence that had produced 10 birdies during the tournament’s first half.

How the others gave chase

Solar Lee was in good standing on Sunday’s outward nine. She bounced back from an opening bogey with three birdies through the 9th, and held the top spot on the leader board at 7-under. Lee reached 9-under through 13, but made bogey at 14 to drop to 8-under. Then came the blossoming of Boutier, and Lee had to be satisfied with the runner-up spot. One spot behind Lee was Valdis Thora Jonsdottir, Iceland’s reigning professional golfer, at 7-under.

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Wednesday’s Photos from The 2017 RSM Classic

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GolfWRX is live this week from The 2017 RSM Classic at Sea Island Golf Club — the Seaside course plays as a par 70 measuring 7,005 yards — in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

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Headlined by last week’s OHL Classic champion Patton Kizzire, and 2015 RSM Champion Kevin Kisner, this week’s field is filled with notable names including Ricky Barnes, Zac Blair, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Harris English, Tommy Gainey, Bill Haas, Beau Hossler, Zach Johnson, Smylie Kaufman, Matt Kuchar, Davis Love III, Graeme McDowell, Ollie Schniederjans, Brandt Snedeker, Hudson Swafford, Bubba Watson and others.

In last year’s RSM Classic, Mackenzie Hughes won in a five-man playoff to secure his first PGA Tour victory. He’s back in the field this year to defend his title.

Check out out photos from Sea Island G.C. below!

Wednesday’s Galleries

 

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums.

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Tuesday’s Photos from the 2017 RSM Classic

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GolfWRX is live this week from The 2017 RSM Classic at Sea Island Golf Club — the Seaside course plays as a par 70 measuring 7,005 yards — in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

Related

Headlined by last week’s OHL Classic champion Patton Kizzire, and 2015 RSM Champion Kevin Kisner, this week’s field is filled with notable names including Ricky Barnes, Zac Blair, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Harris English, Tommy Gainey, Bill Haas, Beau Hossler, Zach Johnson, Smylie Kaufman, Matt Kuchar, Davis Love III, Graeme McDowell, Ollie Schniederjans, Brandt Snedeker, Hudson Swafford, Bubba Watson and others.

In last year’s RSM Classic, Mackenzie Hughes won in a five-man playoff to secure his first PGA Tour victory. He’s back in the field this year to defend his title.

Check out out photos from Sea Island G.C. below!

Tuesday’s Galleries

Special Galleries

 

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums.

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