Everything comes together for Mickelson in dominant week at TPC ScottsdaleFebruary 03, 2013
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It's not like we didn't see it coming. Not after Phil Mickelson nearly opened the Waste Management Phoenix Open with a 59, brandishing his putter like Chi-Chi Rodriguez before the ball cruelly lipped out of the cup.
Mickelson is the type of player who thrives on taking it low, after all, and he proceeded to do just that at TPC Scottsdale -- tying the tournament record in shooting 28 under and winning wire-to-wire for the third time in his career.
Once Mickelson grabbed the first-round lead with that seminal 60 that could have been so much more, he never trailed. Mickelson led by four at the end of the first two rounds and by six heading into Sunday's deciding 18 holes.
Brandt Snedeker tried his hardest to rattle Mickelson in the final round, twice cutting the gap in half before the four-time major champion pulled away and beat him by four. The reigning FedExCup champion and current leader, who shot a pair of 65s on the weekend, was philosophical in what was his second runner-up finish in as many weeks.
"Sometimes you have to tip your hat and say Phil played unbelievable and deserved to win, and that's kind of what this week was all about," Snedeker said.
Indeed. When was the last time the man some people like to call "Phil the Thrill" was so in control of his game that he only played two holes out of 72 over par? He made 29 birdies and an eagle and led the field in greens in regulation, as well.
When he came to Phoenix, though, the only headlines Mickelson had made were for his comments about tax rates not his scoring average. He had two PGA TOUR events with indifferent results, tying for 37th in Palm Springs and 51st at Torrey Pines.
Mickelson, though, felt he was just a "fraction" off and he called Butch Harmon in for a consultation on Wednesday prior to the pro-am. Together, the long-time teacher and student shored up what Mickelson called a "small thing on the takeaway" and the confidence began to return.
Adding the new RAZR Fit Xtreme driver to his bag on Tuesday also helped engineer the turnaround. Mickelson says the driver has been in the works for several months as the Callaway technicians worked to craft a club that allowed him to make the same swing with it as he does with his irons. Judging by the results, their time was well-spent.
"When I hit it Tuesday, I saw an immediate difference," the enthusiastic Mickelson said. He even went so far as to predict that the new driver -- which has often been Mickelson's most disobedient club -- could help him "potentially play some the best golf I have ever played."
The biggest plus for Mickelson, though, may have getting back in the hunt. He hadn't won in 51 weeks -- his title defense at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am begins Thursday -- and while he was eager for 2013 to begin after a solid run through the FedExCup Playoffs last year, the results to date hadn't been there.
Until Sunday, that is. Mickelson had one early miscue when he couldn't get up and down from the greenside bunker to save par at No. 2 but he buckled down and played his last 16 holes in 5 under to pick up the 41st win of his World Golf Hall of Fame career.
"It's an important one for me, because it's been a while since I won, been a while since I've been in contention," Mickelson said. "I was certainly nervous heading into today's final round.
"I think the thing I'm most excited about was the way I was able to regain control of my thoughts after a few shots early on that I didn't care for and come back and hit a number of good shots on the back nine to do what I needed to do to win."
Mickelson was once again a human highlight reel on Sunday, pouring in putt after putt to match -- or top -- Snedeker. The most memorable had to be that 57-footer at the par-3 seventh hole that Mickelson had to start across the fringe, bank off the first cut and watch anxiously as it found the cup.
"I got lucky to have made it, obviously," Mickelson said. "... With Brandt in there close, that was a big momentum change for us."
Snedeker could only shake his head and smile.
"Are you kidding me?" he thought as he waited to attempt the 10-footer he now had to make just to keep pace. "… I hit a great shot in there close and I thought, hey, I can get one on him here and put some pressure on him.
"He makes that, and ... he let me know that I needed to make that to tie. We had fun with it."
Mickelson came up with another stunner at the 15th hole when he short-sided himself in the bunker at the par 5 before blasting out to 5 feet for the birdie that enabled him to match Snedeker. Snedeker said it "was a joke how great that was.
"He just hits shots after shots that are phenomenal when he needs to," the runner-up said.
And the way Mickelson was talking after his round, with equal parts confidence and enthusiasm, there could be many more in store this year.