Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mickelson wraps up desert storm

Goes wire-to-wire for win in Phoenix

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Phil Mickelson completed a wire-to-wire victory in the Phoenix Open, again flirting with history in a dominating run at TPC Scottsdale.

Mickelson shot a 4-under 67 on Sunday to finish at 28-under 256, two strokes off the PGA Tour record of 254 set by Tommy Armour III in the 2003 Texas Open.

"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. 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."

Mickelson missed a chance for a 59 in the first round when his 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole caught the right edge of the cup, curled 180 degrees and stayed out. He settled for a 60 and followed with rounds of 65 and 64 to take a six-stroke lead into the final round.

Mickelson won after struggling the last two weeks in his season-opening events -- tying for 37th at La Quinta and 51st at Torrey Pines -- and creating some headlines by talking about tax increases. He now heads to Pebble Beach for his title defence.

"I think that sets up the tone for the rest of the year, because I really started to play well," Mickelson said. "But for me, the rest of the year took a turn on Tuesday when I got my new driver. It just changed my whole deal."

Brandt Snedeker finished second, four strokes back after a 65.

"Sometimes you have to tip your hat and say, 'Phil played unbelievable and deserved to win,"' Snedeker said. "That's kind of what this week was all about."

Mickelson took a three-stroke lead to the 17th tee, and nearly drove into the left-side water on the drivable par 4, his ball stopping a yard short of the hazard. He hit his 25-yard second shot 15 feet past the hole and made the birdie putt.

Mickelson parred the par-4 18th after another drive to the left, one that easily cleared the water he hit into Friday en route to a double bogey, and Snedeker closed with a bogey.

Mickelson had his third wire-to-wire victory and first since the 2006 BellSouth Classic -- a 13-stroke blowout the week before the second of his three Masters victories. He pushed his victory total to 41, winning for the first time since 51 weeks ago at Pebble Beach.

Making his 24th appearance in the event that he also won in 1996 and 2005, Mickelson tied the tournament scoring record set by Mark Calcavecchia in 2001, and joined Calcavecchia, Arnold Palmer and Gene Littler as the only three-time winners. With six victories in Arizona, Mickelson also matched Johnny Miller's tour record.

After three nearly cloudless days in the Valley of the Sun, the final round was played in overcast conditions. Light rain even fell for a few minutes as Mickelson finished warming up on the practice green and played the first hole.

After the rain stopped, Mickelson bogeyed the par-4 second and birdied the two front-nine par 3s, pulling off his best shot of the day on No. 7.

After Snedeker, four strokes back after a birdie on No. 6, hit within 10 feet of the back-left pin to set up a birdie, Mickelson's tee shot leaked right and stopped an inch from the back fringe, leaving him 55 feet with a 20-foot swath of fringe between his ball and the hole.

Mickelson decided to putt through the fringe rather than chip over it and had caddie Jim Mackay remove the flagstick. The 42-year-old former Arizona State star hit it perfectly, with the ball avoiding the rough, rolling back onto the green and racing into the cup.

"I got lucky to have made it, obviously," he said. "I was just trying to two-putt it."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 4, 2013 C4

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