Phil Mickelson wins 'The Match' in a 22-hole thriller

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Phil Mickelson wins 'The Match' in a 22-hole thriller

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Phil Mickelson wins 'The Match' in a 22-hole thriller

Phil Mickelson is much, much richer this Friday. And he certainly worked for it.

The left-hander buried a 4-footer for birdie on the fourth extra hole in the showdown with Tiger Woods known as “The Match” to capture the contest. The triumph in 22 holes at Shadow Creek earned him a $9 million winner-take-all prize. He also earned $400,000 in side bets during the contest with Woods.

It took awhile to get this amazing conclusion, but that (and a lot of the late action) made it worth it.

The action was pretty lackluster for much of the front nine, and Mickelson missed a big opportunity to build a sizable early lead.

It started on the very first hole, as Woods couldn’t coax in a 15-footer for birdie. That meant Mickelson had a 10-footer for birdie to win the opening hole and a $200,000 side bet about him making birdie on that first hole.

But he misread the putt and it missed left. That meant All Square and Mickelson $200,000 down in side bets.

Mickelson didn’t have to sulk long, as Woods surprising lipped out a 3-footer for par and the halve at the par-4 second. That put Mickelson quickly 1 up.

He then missed a 20-footer for birdie to go 2 up through three. The pair conceded each other short birdie putts to halve the par-5 fourth. Mickelson left a pair of birdie putts inside 10 feet short at Nos. 5 and 6, missed chances again to take a 2-up lead.

Woods made him pay right away for that failure to pile on. The 14-time major champion lagged a long eagle putt from off the green at the par-5 seventh to tap-in range after Mickelson hit his third shot from a greenside bunker shot short into another one. Woods’ birdie was conceded, and Mickelson couldn’t hole his subsequent bunker shot to halve the hole.

Mickelson got the lead gifted right back to him, though, at the par-3 eighth when Woods left a 40-footer some 7 feet short and lipped out his par effort. Mickelson’s own 40-footer ran 5 feet by, but he buried the par putt to win the hole and take back a 1-up lead.

He would finish the front nine with a 1-up lead.

It appeared the match was turning in Woods’ favor early in the back nine.

Mickelson had a green-lighter with 109 yards from the fairway into the par-4 10th and Woods left of the green. But Lefty could only knock his approach 25 feet short of the cup. Woods pitched to 5 feet and parred to ensure a halve and to stay 1 down.

He then squared the match by hitting a nifty eagle pitch on the drivable par-4 11th to 3 feet. That birdie was conceded. Mickelson’s eagle chip finished 10 feet by the cup and he couldn’t hole the putt to halve and keep the lead.

Woods then pounced on that, knocking a 74-yard second shot to 2 feet at the par-4 12th after Mickelson’s approach went 30 feet left of the cup. Another conceded birdie, a missed long putt from Mickelson and Woods had suddenly won back-to-back holes to take a 1-up lead.

It was his first lead all match.

But Mickelson was not one to wilt.

He immediately drained a slick 10-footer for birdie to win the par-3 13th. Both players agonizingly caught the lip and missed on birdie putts from around 10 feet at the par-4 14th. Woods had the putt to win the hole eventually and take back the lead but couldn’t capitalize.

It was even more surprising a hole later when both players missed the par-4 15th green with shorter irons from the fairway. Woods hit a poor chip 8 feet past while Mickelson knocked a brilliant one to concession range. Woods then missed left on the putt to fall back 1 down.

The trend of Woods missing important putts down the stretch in this showdown actually continued at the par-5 16th. Woods faced a 12-footer for birdie to win the hole and square the match and hit a putrid putt that was low and left all the way.

With Mickelson 1 up with two to play and off first on the par-3 17th, he had a chance to go for a kill shot. The left-hander did pretty well, knocking his tee shot 12 feet right and under the cup.

Woods thought he responded with a beauty, but his ball carried farther than he expected and his ball finished on the back fringe some 20-25 feet beyond the cup.

It seemed “The Match” would go to Mickelson. But let’s not forget … this is still Tiger Woods.

He brought back old flashes by doing just what he probably would’ve done in his prime: Holing the birdie chip.

That thunderbolt turned Mickelson’s 12-foot birdie putt from a chance at a 2-and-1 win to needing to drop just to keep the lead. Mickelson proceeded to miss the putt, and in a stunning reversal the contest was back to All Square.

Fittingly, the match would go longer than the 18 holes.

Woods had 5 feet for birdie at the par-5 18th with Mickelson facing a 3.5-footer for his own. With all that pressure, Woods of course drained it no problem. Surprisingly, he then conceded Mickelson’s putt. That ensured a halve on the hole and that the contest would go to extra holes.

The duo returned to the par-5 18th for the first extra hole. Woods was forced to lay up and Mickelson had a 198-yard second shot with a great chance to put in another kill shot.

But he missed well left and thought he went in the water. Left actually went left of the hazard into a plugged lie in a bunker.

Another reversal and Woods was up for it as he spun a wedge to 8 feet for a great look at birdie. Mickelson could only hit his bunker shot 30 feet by the cup and lag to a conceded par.

That meant Woods had that 8-footer for birdie and the win. But this one was always low and left, and we went to the 20th hole.

This one was a 93-yard par 3 with the tee shot coming from the putting green.

Woods airmailed the green, hitting a spectator. Mickelson knocked his tee shot to 20 feet. Woods chipped to 3 feet and was conceded par.

That gave Mickelson that birdie putt for the win, which he hit on line but just fractionally short.

The pair moved back to the makeshift par 3 for the 21st hole. Woods once again airmailed the green, and this time Mickelson stepped up by knocking his tee shot to 7 feet.

Woods chipped 5 feet by. With another birdie putt to close it out, Mickelson again failed as he lipped out the 7-footer. He then made a surprising concession, giving Woods that 5-footer for par to halve the hole.

The same hole awaited them for the 22nd of the match. Woods hit his tee shot 7 feet left of the pin and Mickelson responded by knocking his 4 feet under the cup.

Woods missed right and short, and this time Mickelson stepped up by draining the putt for the win and $9 million.

He actually got more as Mickelson won three side bets totaling $600,000 after his initial $200,000 loss to win a total of $400,000 in side bets. All those proceeds went to charity.

It was a long, grueling match that Lefty had to think might’ve been snatched from him late after Woods’ heroic chip-in. But Mickelson showed grit and eventually prevailed.

It was a lackluster round for most of the contest, but what drama these two produced in the end.

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