Phil, Tiger go in opposite directions on Sunday

February 12, 2012
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson had good reason to be oozing with confidence Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am -- even if he did enter the final round trailing by six shots.

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After all, he was paired with Tiger Woods.

"I love playing with him, and he brings out some of my best golf," Mickelson said. "I just seem more focused. I know that his level of play is so much greater when he's playing his best than anybody else's, that it just forces me to focus on my game more intently, and hit more precise shots."

That's exactly what Mickelson did with a dazzling 8-under 64 that included three birdies and an eagle over his first six holes as he sped to a two-shot win over Charlie Wi, who led overnight but shot just even par.

Tiger, meanwhile, was anything but precise.

Whether it was with his putting -- he missed seven putts from inside 10 feet, including three from inside 3 feet -- or his iron play -- he hit just nine greens in regulation, easily his fewest all week -- Woods never gave himself a chance.

"It was frustrating," said Woods, who began the day in a tie for second and ended it tied for 15th after a disastrous 75 that included three straight bogeys to close out the front nine. "I was looking for 2-3 under though the first six or seven holes, and Phil is the one who got off to that start.

"I thought I had a chance to get up there in the middle of the round and instead I went the other way."

And how.

The slide started somewhat innocently with a missed 5-footer for birdie on the par-5 second, but it was a portent of what was to come.

The snowball turned into an avalanche with three straight bogeys to close out the front nine for Woods, who lipped out from 2 feet on the par-3 seventh, left a 5-footer short on the par-4 eighth and failed to get up-and-down from a greenside bunker on the ninth.

"I could not get comfortable where I could see my lines," Woods said.

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Mickelson of course looked plenty comfortable in a place that's proven to be pretty special to him on a lot of levels.

His grandfather Alfred Santos used to caddie at Pebble Beach, and Mickelson has now won here on four occasions with wife Amy on site to witness the latest one.

Mickelson's shot-making was also pretty special.

The turning point started on the uphill, par-5 513-yard sixth, which Mickelson reached in two before sinking a 21-footer for eagle.

"The eagle to me was as important as any [shot]," Mickelson said. "I'm just trying to make a four. I'm not playing aggressively for a three off the tee. It's an awkward shot for me. If I get it turning over at all it just runs into the ocean."

Updated standings
Phil Mickelson and Spencer Levin moved into the top 10 at Pebble Beach. Click to see where everyone stands after six events. Standings

Six holes later with Mickelson leading his closest competitor by three and Woods by five, he left one of his classic flop shots a not-so-classic 30 feet from the hole on the par-3 12th.

Woods had hit into the bunker but then holed the shot for a birdie and what looked like would be a two-shot swing. Instead, Mickelson jarred the 30-footer to save par. It was one of three putts Mickelson made from over 20 feet, and it all but sank any chances anyone had of catching him.

Mickelson hit the accelerator again with three birdies over his final six holes, including one on the par-5 18th. It was a nice stamp on the victory that created the 11-shot gap between he and Woods in the final round.

It was the biggest disparity ever between the two as Woods again missed from inside 3 feet for a par on the final hole.

It was also the ninth time in the last 12 occasions that Mickelson outplayed Woods in a rivalry that has now gone the other way since 2007, which is perhaps no small coincidence.

That's when Mickelson started working with Butch Harmon, who of course coached Woods at the outset of his career.

Asked if that's had any impact, Mickelson smiled and said, "Possibly."