PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – He knew his game was getting close, and he broke through with flair Sunday in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
That turned out to be Phil Mickelson, not Tiger Woods.
In a big, big way.
Mickelson went from a six-shot deficit to a two-shot lead in just six holes, closed with an 8-under 64 for a two-shot victory over Charlie Wi and gave Woods a Sunday thrashing not many saw coming.
Mickelson and Woods played in the second-to-last group, and Mickelson beat him by 11 shots. He won for the fourth time at Pebble Beach, and became only the ninth player in PGA Tour history with 40 wins.
“Pebble Beach … it feels awesome no matter what number it is,” Mickelson said.
It was anything but that for Woods, who was reduced to a supporting role on a cool, overcast day along the Pacific. Right when it looked as though Woods might still be in the game after holing a bunker shot for birdie on the par-3 12th, Mickelson answered by pouring in a 30-foot par putt.
Mickelson seized control for good with a 40-foot par save on the 15th hole, and he played it safe – Mickelson is capable of that every once in a while – on the 18th hole and still made birdie.
Wi, who started the final round with a three-shot lead, four-putted for double bogey on the opening hole and never quite recovered. He closed with back-to-back birdies for an even-par 72 and his fifth runner-up finish on tour.
It was the third straight week on tour that the winner started the final round at least six shots behind a 54-hole leader going after his first tour victory.
The shocker, though, was how Woods fell apart.
He has been taking big strides with his game over the past few months, and he looked poised to break through after a 67 in the third round at Pebble Beach got him to within four shots of the lead.
But he failed to make birdie on the easy opening stretch at Pebble Beach, and even when he made his first birdie at the par-5 sixth, Mickelson poured in a 20-foot eagle putt to take the outright lead.
“I didn’t hit it as bad as the score indicated, but I putted awful,” Woods said. “As good as I felt on the greens yesterday, I felt bad today. Anything I tried to do wasn’t working. Consequently, I made a ton of mistakes on the green.”
Two weeks ago in his 2012 debut at Abu Dhabi, Woods was tied for the lead with unheralded Robert Rock going into the final round and didn’t break par, tying for third.
Woods used to own Mickelson, but that changed at the 2007 Deutsche Bank Championship. This was the fifth straight time Mickelson posted the better score when playing in the same group as Woods in the final round.
Mickelson has won three of those tournaments, although they have yet to be in the final group on those occasions.
Mickelson started his season sluggishly, failing to crack the top 25 at the Humana Challenge and Phoenix Open, and missing the cut at Torrey Pines. He said his putting was as good as ever, and it was a matter of getting his game in sync.
It simply sang on Sunday, mostly his amazing touch on the greens – a long eagle putt at No. 2 that caught part of the hole, long two-putts for par and enough birdies to make him a winner at Pebble Beach again.
“It feels just amazing,” Mickelson said. “I felt like my game was there, but coming out the first couple of weeks, I posted some horrendous scores and started to question it. To be able to play the way I did the last 18 holes really means a lot.”
Mickelson finished at 17-under 269 and earned $1.152 million for his first win since the Houston Open last year. He will move to No. 11 in the world.
Ricky Barnes closed with a 67 and finished third. Kevin Na tied for fifth and earned a spot in the Match Play Championship in two weeks at Arizona.
Wi talked about battling the demons of self-doubt, and they must have had the first green surrounded. Equipped with a three-shot lead to start the final round, Wi four-putted from 35 feet above the hole for a double bogey.
Just like that, the game was on.
That still wasn’t enough for Woods to get in on the action. Standing in the sixth fairway, Woods was only one shot out of the lead, yet the sleeves of his red shirt and his name on the leaderboard didn’t seem to make him stand out the way it has before.
The opening holes had something to do with that, and watching Mickelson play alongside him.
Mickelson nearly holed an eagle putt across the second green; Woods missed a 5-foot birdie putt that stayed 2 inches above the hole. Mickelson holed a 15-foot birdie putt down the hill at the fourth; Woods had a 30-foot putt up the hill that was 3 feet short. Mickelson’s tee shot on the par-3 fifth settled a foot from the cup. Woods missed his birdie putt from 12 feet.
Yes, there was a big charge at Pebble Beach – from Lefty.
Mickelson started the day six shots behind and went two shots ahead with an eagle on the sixth hole. Woods then vanished in a series of blunders – missing a 2½-foot par putt on the seventh, missed a 5-foot par putt on the eighth, and a third straight bogey at No. 9 when he hit his approach into the bunker.
The only hope for Woods came on the 12th, when he holed his bunker shot. It looked like it might be a two-shot swing, pulling him to within three of the lead, until Mickelson made his 30-footer for par.
On the next hole, Mickelson hit an approach to 2 feet and Woods’ tee shot landed in a divot.
“It’s frustrating because I had a chance,” Woods said. “All I had to do was get off to a good, solid start. And I didn’t do that.”
– Associated Press
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No. 18, Par 5, 543 yards
Mickelson takes iron off the tee and puts it in the middle of the fairway, obviously playing not to make a mistake.
Tiger takes driver and puts it right in the middle of the fairway.
Mickelson takes another iron with his second shot and simply flies it right down the middle of the fairway.
Tiger goes for the green in two and puts it on the green and will have a 40-footer for eagle. But he three-putts for a par, missing a two-footer for birdie.
And moments later, Mickelson takes his approach shot right at the pin and it settles about three feet past the flag. He makes it to clinch the victory.
Tiger on the day: 3 over (thru 18 holes; 8 under for tournament)
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No. 17, Par 3, 178 yards
Both Mickelson and Woods hit the green in regulation, with both looking at more than 20 feet for birdie.
Tiger comes up inches short on his birdie attempt, as does Mickelson. Both two-putt for par.
Tiger on the day: 3 over (thru 17 holes; 8 under for tournament)
Elsewhere on the course: Ricky Barnes finished his round and is second at 13 under after a 5-under 67. J.P. McManus and Padraig Harrington have won the Pro-Am title.
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No. 16, Par 4, 403 yards
Mickelson pulls driver and hammers it right down the center, leaving less than 130 yards to the green.
Tiger chooses to take iron off the tee and will have near 180 yards on his second shot.
With 7-iron, Tiger nearly jars it with his approach and will have about six feet for birdie. Mickelson has less yardage, but comes up short and will have a long, uphill putt for birdie.
Tiger leaves his birdie putt short and taps in for par. Mickelson two-putts for his par to maintain his three-shot lead.
Tiger on the day: 3 over (thru 16 holes; 8 under for tournament)
• • •
No. 15, Par 4, 397 yards
Both Tiger and Mickelson take fairway wood and both put it in the middle of the fairway.
Mickelson plays a poor second shot and is in a greenside bunker and will have a tough up-and-down.
From 130 yards, Tiger also airmails the green with a pitching wedge and will be chipping back with his third shot.
Tiger plays a big, spinning flop and settles about two feet from the cup. He misses the tiny putt and picks up another bogey.
Meanwhile, Mickelson plays a poor shot out of the bunker and had more than 20 feet for par. But he does it again, knocking it dead in the center of the cup to save par.
Tiger on the day: 3 over (thru 15 holes; 8 under for tournament)
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No. 14, Par 5, 573 yards
Mickelson puts his drive in the middle of the fairway, while Tiger finds a fairway bunker on the right, missing being in great position by a yard or two.
Mickelson lays up with his second shot, using long iron to give himself a good look at his third shot. Tiger also lays up, playing a nice shot out of the bunker and to the right of Mickelson’s ball.
Tiger hits a photographer with his third shot, and that was fortunate for Woods. The ball comes to rest in the rough.
Mickelson gives himself a good chance at birdie with a nice sand wedge over the flag that spins back to about five feet. He makes it and he moves to 16 under.
Tiger’s fourth shot out of a bad lie comes up short and rolls back off the green. He chips to a foot and drops another shot, his fourth bogey of the day.
Tiger on the day: 2 over (thru 14 holes; 9 under for tournament)
• • •
No. 13, Par 4, 399 yards
Tiger takes driver off the tee and hammers it to the right side of the fairway. Mickelson also takes driver and puts it on the left side of the fairway.
Tiger gets an unfortunate break, as his tee ball came to rest in a divot in the fairway. He has to take a big divot to get the ball up and he lands it on the green and it rolls to his left and slightly off the green.
Mickelson’s approach shot hops up on the green and runs to within three feet of the hole. He taps that in and moves to 15 under and has a two-shot lead over Kevin Streelman and Charlie Wi.
From about 60 feet, Tiger puts his birdie putt to within an inch and has to settle for a par.
Tiger on the day: 1 over (thru 13 holes; 10 under for tournament)
Elsewhere on the course: Charlie Wi birdied the par-3 12th to move to 13 under.
• • •
No. 12, Par 3, 202 yards
Mickelson makes a bad swing on his tee ball, and is well short of the green and to the left. With 4-iron in hand, Tiger holds his swing like he likes the ball flight, but the ball flies into a greenside bunker.
Tiger chips in from the bunker to move back to 10 under. It is only his second birdie of the day.
Mickelson gets too much on his second shot and flies well over the flag and had more than 25 feet to save par. He holes it to answer Tiger’s big shot.
Tiger on the day: 1 over (thru 12 holes; 10 under for tournament)
• • •
No. 11, Par 4, 380 yards
Tiger finds the fairway with driver, while Mickelson is also in the fairway after a 3-wood.
From 105 yards, Mickelson takes a lob wedge over the flag and it rolls back and to within 14 feet.
From 99 yards, Tiger doesn’t land it far enough over the flag and his spin back takes the ball about 25 feet under the hole.
Tiger leaves the birdie putt one revolution short and he taps in for a par. Mickelson also two-putts for a par.
Tiger on the day: 2 over (thru 11 holes; 9 under for tournament)
• • •
No. 10, Par 4, 446 yards
Mickelson pummels a drive into the right side of the fairway and will have a good angle at the pin. Tiger takes a big swing at his drive, but finds a bunker on the left.
Tiger has a bad lie in the bunker and has to simply whack it out and he puts it about 60 yards in front of the green.
Mickelson makes a mistake with his approach, going over the green and he’ll have a delicate chip back down the green.
Tiger plays a bump-and-run, but it comes up 13 feet short and is staring a fourth-straight bogey. He drains it to stop the bleeding and save a par.
Mickelson gives it a run, hitting the hole and has about three feet for par. He makes it to save par and stays at 14 under.
Tiger on the day: 2 over (thru 10 holes; 9 under for tournament)
• • •
No. 9, Par 4, 466 yards
Mickelson continues to find fairways, going 288 yards off the tee and will have 187 yards to the pin. Tiger finds the rough at the picturesque par 4 and will have about 190 to the pin.
Tiger is definitely struggling, as he just put his approach shot in a greenside bunker and will have a near-impossible up-and-down for par.
Mickelson places his approach shot in the middle of the green. He two-putts for par.
Tiger hits a nice bunker shot and will have about eight feet to save par. But he misses it for a third-straight bogey.
Tiger on the day: 2 over (thru 9 holes; 9 under for tournament)
Elsewhere on the course: Kevin Streelman has pulled to within one shot of Mickelson after a birdie at the tough par-3 12th hole.
• • •
No. 8, Par 4, 418 yards
Mickelson finds the fairway again, but will have about 190 yards to the pin. Tiger is also in the fairway, about 200 yards from the pin.
Both players come up short of the green, with Tiger finding the rough and is about 12 yards out, while Mickelson is 20 yards away.
Mickelson gets up-and-down for par, while Tiger hits his third shot to five feet. He misses the putt and picks up bogey for a second-straight hole.
Tiger on the day: 1 over (thru 8 holes; 10 under for tournament)
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No. 7, Par 3, 106 yards
Tiger and Mickelson both hit the green in regulation, with Tiger about 16 feet away and Mickelson close to 12 feet out.
Tiger’s birdie putt settles about three feet from the hole, while Mickelson also comes up short on his birdie attempt.
Mickelson holes his three-footer for par, while Tiger picks up his first bogey of the day with a three-putt.
Tiger on the day: Even (thru 7 holes; 11 under for tournament)
• • •
No. 6, Par 5, 513 yards
Tiger smacks his tee shot – with a 3-wood – right into the middle of the fairway. Mickelson does the same.
From 245 yards, Mickelson takes hybrid and puts it on the front of the green and will have an uphill eagle putt.
Tiger, 229 yards, takes 3-iron and runs it right past the hole, but it keeps rolling and finds its way to the back of the green, setting up a long eagle putt.
Tiger’s slick, right-to-left eagle putt settles six feet from the hole. He makes the birdie putt to move into the red for the first time on Sunday.
Mickelson holes his 21-foot eagle putt to move to 14 under, and now has a two-shot lead over Tiger, Wi and Kevin Streelman.
Tiger on the day: 1 under (thru 6 holes; 12 under for tournament)
Elsewhere on the course: Charlie Wi is having a rough go of it, picking up a bogey on No. 5 and falls to 12 under, tied with Phil Mickelson for the lead.
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No. 5, Par 3, 188 yards
With the honors off the tee, Mickelson takes 8-iron and puts it to within two feet of the pin. Tiger also takes 8-iron and hits the green, about 12 feet from the hole.
Tiger doesn’t hit hard enough to keep a tight line and settles for a two-putt par. Mickelson taps in for a birdie and is now one shot back of leader Charlie Wi.
Tiger on the day: Even (thru 5 holes; 11 under for tournament)
Elsewhere on the course: Playing in front of the Tiger-Lefty group, Kevin Na moved to 12 under with an impressive birdie off the green at No. 5.
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No. 4, Par 4, 293 yards
While most are deciding to go after the green from the tee, Mickelson and Tiger both decide to take iron off the tee. Mickelson puts it in the middle of the fairway, while Tiger plays the angles and puts it on the right side of the fairway.
From 92 yards, Tiger lofts it up, but he misjudges the distance and the ball comes to rest on the edge of the green. Mickelson goes over the flag and tries to spin it back, but it comes to rest about 12 feet away from the pin.
From 30 feet, Tiger putts uphill and leaves it about three feet under the hole. He makes it for another par.
Mickelson sinks his slick birdie putt and is now tied with Tiger at 11 under.
Tiger on the day: Even (thru 4 holes; 11 under for tournament)
Elsewhere on the course: Ken Duke has missed two prime birdie putts and remains at 12 under, one shot back of Charlie Wi. Meanwhile, Kevin Na and Aaron Baddeley have joined Tiger at 11 under, while Ryan Moore has dropped back to 10 under with a bogey at No. 6.
• • •
No. 3, Par 4, 390 yards
Tiger uses 3-wood and puts it in the middle of the fairway, although he didn’t look happy with the shot initially. Mickelson pulls driver and puts it into the long rough on the left.
From 171 yards, Tiger takes 9-iron and puts his second shot in the middle of the green.
Mickelson has an awkward stance for his second shot, but manages to loft it way into the air and hits the front of the green, and will have a long birdie attempt, which he misses long.
Tiger puts a great stroke on his birdie putt, but it comes to rest two inches to the right of the cup and he picks up a par. Mickelson matches the par with a four-footer.
Tiger on the day: Even (thru 3 holes; 11 under for tournament)
Elsewhere on the course: Ryan Moore has moved into a tie with Tiger at 11 under, with Moore going 4 under thru his first five holes. Aaron Baddeley is at 10 under after going 3 under thru five holes.
• • •
No. 2, Par 5, 502 yards
Tiger pulls 3-wood on the short par 5 and puts it into a right fairway bunker and will have 251 yards left to the green. Mickelson pokes his tee ball into the fairway and has about 253 yards to the hole.
After looking at the yardage book, Tiger puts away his fairway wood he initially pulled and goes with iron. He lays up on the left side of the fairway.
Mickelson goes after the green in two and lands on the front of the green and will have a lengthy eagle attempt (about 140 feet).
From 134 yards, Tiger sticks his third shot to within six feet for a birdie attempt.
Mickelson hits the right edge of the cup with his eagle attempt, but it lips around and comes to a stop about two feet from the hole. He makes it to move to 10 under, three back of the lead.
Tiger misses his birdie putt high and sends it two feet past. He makes the comebacker for par.
Tiger on the day: Even (thru 2 holes; 11 under for the tournament)
Elsewhere on the course: Charlie Wi picks up double-bogey at the first hole and has dropped to 13 under, two clear of Ken Duke. Meanwhile, Dustin Johnson and Kevin Na both birdie No. 1 to move to 10 under. But Johnson picks up a bogey at No. 2 to fall back to 9 under.
• • •
No. 1, Par 4, 381 yards
Pin location: Front left
Tiger takes iron off the first tee and it lands on the right side of the fairway at the short par 4. Mickelson uses hybrid and knocks it about five feet past Tiger.
Tiger yells at his approach shot to stop after hitting it pin-high, but it spins back off the green. Mickelson also hits it close, but rolls back and is near the edge of the green.
From about 35 feet and off the green, Tiger uses putter and gives it a run for birdie – with a little knee-bend for effect – but it comes up about a foot short and has to settle for a tap-in par.
Mickelson two-putts to also par.
Tiger on the day: Even (thru 1 hole; 11 under for tournament)
Elsewhere on the course: Miguel Angel Carballo (4 under thru 7 holes on the day) and Brian Harman (3 under thru 5 holes on the day) are showing that the players will be able to go low today.
• • •
Tiger Woods is decked out in all black, with his traditional red peaking out from under his vest.
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Round 3: Tiger fires 67, will play with Lefty Sunday
Tiger Woods made five birdies in his opening nine to climb the leaderboard at Pebble Beach and is T-3 headed into the final round. He now trails leader Charlie Wi by four shots and will play with Phil Mickelson in the second-to-last group. Click here for the Round 3 Tiger Tracker.
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Round 2: Another 68 for Tiger
Tiger Tracker: Woods shot a second-round, 2-under 68 on Monterey Peninsula to get to 6 under entering the weekend at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Golfweek tracked his day, shot by shot.
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Round 1: Tiger’s 68 at Spyglass
Tiger Woods fired an opening 4-under 68 on Thursday and sits five shots back of three players, including Dustin Johnson. Check out how Woods’ round broke down with our hole-by-hole Tiger Tracker. Click here for the story.
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Hangin’ with Tiger
Golfweek was granted exclusive access to Tiger Woods last week and had a chance to sit down and talk with him about his legacy, which taps into the new “Legacy Challenge” mode in the 2013 EA Sports PGA TOUR Tiger Woods game, slated for release in late March.
• Check out our exclusive video of Tiger, where he answers everything from what he remembers as a child to how he expects to keep on building his “legacy.” Check out the video here.
• Also, check out our story on our time with Tiger, as well as cool screen grabs from the new EA Sports game. Click here for the story.
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Tiger back at Pebble Beach
• Odds-on favorite: Our Alex Miceli says that Tiger Woods is the oddsmakers’ favorite this week. Check out our weekly PGA Tour odds column.
• Star attraction: The attention of the golf world is back on the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, mostly thanks to Tiger Woods returning to one of his favorite venues. Check out the commentary here.
• Fantasy Tip Sheet: Tiger is the pick of two of our fantasy panelists. One of his biggest foes is also getting some love. Check out our fantasy tips here.
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The start of a beautiful rivalry?
• Alistair Tait can see just how good a friendly rivalry between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods could be for the game of golf. Column.
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Tiger in Abu Dhabi
Could 2012 be a return to form? Tiger’s peers weigh-in. Check out that story here.
Alistair Tait: Tiger needs to open up more in press conferences Read that story here.
Jim McCabe: Of course Tiger showed up for an appearance fee. Check out his tongue-in-cheek column here.