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.
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.