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Phil Mickelson clinches three-shot victory at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

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Phil Mickelson clinches three-shot victory at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Phil Mickelson now has five wins at Pebble Beach and 44 PGA TOUR titles overall

    Written by Mike McAllister @PGATOUR_MikeMc

    Phil Mickelson's Round 4 highlights from AT&T Pebble Beach

    PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Tim Mickelson is seven years younger than his 48-year-old brother Phil. Having the advantage of youth, however, does not give him the advantage in flexibility.

    “His flexibility is really good,” Tim said. “It’s a lot better than mine, which is sad.”

    Phil’s flexibility was certainly evident in his video commercial last year, which showcased a series of contortionist dance moves while wearing a button-down shirt. His flexibility is a huge reason why Phil has won twice in the past 11 months, including Monday’s two-hole finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am when he became the tournament’s oldest winner, three shots ahead of playing partner Paul Casey.

    It’s also why 2019 could turn into a hugely rewarding year, especially if Mickelson can return here in June to win the U.S. Open and complete the career slam.

    At an age where most pro golfers have suffered a dramatic fall-off, circling the date until they no longer have to compete against the youngsters, Mickelson obviously still has the game to maintain his lofty standards. Besides his two wins, he also tied for second last month at the Desert Classic. Thanks to improved eating habits and a dedication to keep his body pliable, he is having a renaissance moment.

    “It’s a lot more work and effort to play at this level,” Phil said. “I have believed for some time that if I play at my best, it will be good enough to win tournaments here. The challenge is getting myself to play my best.

    “It’s a lot more work off the course, it’s more time in the gym, it’s more time eating, it’s more time focusing – it’s all these things that go into it, and so it’s very gratifying to see the results and to finish it off the way I did.”

    Historically, noted Mickelson, players in their 40s see two things decline – putting and swing speed. His goal was to avoid both problems, and thus far he’s been successful.

    Mickelson ranked ninth in Strokes Gained: Putting in the 2015-16 season and was 13th last season. “The best it’s been in my 25, 28-year career,” he said of his putting.

    He’s also made a dramatic improvement in his swing speed. Two years ago, he ranked 91st in clubhead speed at 114.24 mph. Last year, he was 54th in 116.49. He arrived at Pebble Beach a week ago ranked 13th at 121.68. In Sunday’s final round, he averaged 118.656 mph, which was sixth in the field.

    The swing speed has given him extra distance and increased confidence off the tee.

    “It’s not really a secret,” Mickelson said. “It was nine months of hard work, and then overnight I was swinging six mph faster. … It was biometric swing studies of my swing, taking weaknesses and making them strengths. It was time in the gym. It was a whole workout process. It’s been a lot of work, but days like this make it worthwhile.”

    Phil had no choice if he wanted to compete with the youngsters who could knock it long. Much like Tom Brady seems to defy the aging process as an NFL quarterback, Mickelson is doing the same on the PGA TOUR.

    “Any athlete, as they get older, has to be smarter with how they treat their body,” his brother Tim said. “Whether that’s nutrition, how they stretch. You look at guys in other sports – Tom Brady, Phil here, other golfers too. They have to in order to keep up.”

    Of course, it helps that this tournament, and especially Pebble Beach Golf Links, is a great fit for Mickelson. His five AT&T Pebble Beach wins matches Mark O’Meara for most in tournament history, and he now has 14 wins in his native state.

    His ability to navigate the course serves him well in key spots. He knows he can miss far left at No. 6 in order to avoid the water – which he did on Sunday when he knocked his tee shot off the dome in the grandstands. And on his approach at the par-4 13th, he opted to chase a low-lining 7-iron to the pin instead of trying to spin back a wedge shot to a pin located on high ground.

    On Monday, the gameplan was simple after he parred the 17th and took a three-shot lead into 18. He played conservative off the tee with an iron but still birdied the hole after a great approach from 138 yards finished inside 7 feet. The final birdie left him at 19 under, with a career total of 149 under since his first win on this course in 1998.

    Asked if Pebble Beach was the best course on TOUR that suits his brother’s game, Tim replied: “There may be better courses but certainly there’s a comfortability for him on this course. He knows where he can miss it, where he can’t miss it.”

    Phil was asked the same question. “I would have a hard time arguing another course does. Maybe Augusta.”

    But not even Augusta National can match Pebble Beach in terms of the Mickelson family’s legacy. It’s only at Pebble Beach that Phil carries a silver dollar from the year of his grandfather’s birth as a ballmarker. His grandfather was one of the original caddies when Pebble Beach opened in 1919.

    As they walked toward the 18th green Monday, Phil showed Tim the silver dollar. No words were exchanged. They knew how much it meant for the family.

    “This really is a special place for me,” Phil said.

    It could get even more special when he returns in June.

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