Phil ‘Er Up! Tiger Falters . . .

Posted: February 15, 2012 by Kodi in Hitting the Greens

Phil Mickelson came back in the final round to win his 40th career PGA Tour event

Meanwhile Tiger looked strong for the first three days to absolutely collapse on Sunday

It didn’t help that Tiger and Phil were paired together on Sunday . . .

There seems to be a trend in the last 3 PGA Tour events, the leader after 54 holes has given up a commanding lead and someone shoots an impressive final round score to win the tournament out of nowhere. This week Phil Mickelson shot an incredible final round, while playing with Tiger Woods, to win the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and secure his 40th career victory. Charlie Wi was the unlucky recipient of choking away a lead but it wasn’t near the implosion that Kyle Stanley and Spencer Levin had previously. Wi did dig himself into a hole after three putting from inside 4 feet on the very first hole, once again proving that playing with a lead is mentally strenuous.

Golf is and will always be a mentally challenging sport and if you asked Charlie Wi what happened he will admit that his nerves once again got the best of him. Wi would shoot 4 over through the first 6 holes but bounced back to shoot a final round 72 and finished with a -15 271 for the tournament, good enough for sole possession of 2nd place. Wi played in 25 PGA Tour events last year making the cut in 17 of those tournaments and recording just 6 top 25 finishes and 1 top 10. Wi has not won a PGA Tour event and hasn’t had a trophy in his last 163 career starts but after a shaky Sunday and a single stroke lead he was unable to fend off a roaring Phil Mickelson.

Mickelson nearly played his way out of contention by shooting an opening round 70 but bounced back with a 65 on Friday. Saturday was a difficult day for almost the entire field but Mickelson shot another 70 and coming into Sunday was 6 strokes behind Wi. Mickelson was paired with Tiger Woods, who was 4 strokes behind the leader, marking the first time the two were paired together in such a pivotal match since the 2009 Masters when Mick shot a 67 while Woods shot a 68 and both fell short to the eventual winner Angel Cabrera. “I just love playing with [Tiger Woods], and he brings out some of my best golf” Mickelson said of the opportunity. “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 [his play] just forces me to focus on my game more intently, and hit more precise shots.”

Phil made some impressive shots but all the momentum was his when he hit a 21 foot putt for eagle. “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.” When Mickelson got to the 12th hole he had a 3 stroke lead and was 5 ahead of Woods. Mickelson butchered one of his go-to flop shots and was 30 feet from the hole and shooting for par. He would make the putt and it gave him the confidence to birdie both 13 and 14. He would par the following 3 holes, including another 40 foot par save on 15, and finished 18 off with a birdie giving him a final round -8 64.

He was bogey free in his final round and it was one of the most dominating rounds that lefty has had and his first victory since the Shell Houston Open in 2011. It is his 40th career victory and he is now in sole possession of 9th on the all-time wins list in the PGA. It is the 4th time that Mickelson has won at Pebble Beach  trailing Mark O’Meara by one win to tie the all-time wins leader at this event. It is his 13th career victory in his home state of California and with this victory he continues the longest active winning streak on Tour winning at least 1 trophy in the last 9 seasons. 17 of Mickelson’s 40 wins have been comebacks and this victory earned him a check for $1,152,000 and propelled him to 5th in the FedEx Cup standings. This season Mickelson has wavered back and forth in his play missing the top 25 at the Humana and Waste Management Tourney’s and missing the cut at Torrey Pines but although Mickelson has struggled with his commanding victory at Pebble Beach he has garnered praise from many golf fans.

Woods on the other hand played incredibly for the first 3 rounds and was nipping at the heels of his first lead in a long while but Tiger absolutely collapsed on Sunday. Mentally one can understand how difficult it is for Woods to put his past behind him and play golf but realistically he hasn’t been the same since his debacle. He has shown signs of turning it around, near the lead heading into the final 18 in his last few tournaments, but on both occasions Woods came out donning his traditional Sunday red shirt and played terribly. Tiger has struggled lately with short irons and his putting, hitting just 9 greens in regulation and missing 7 putts from inside 10 feet including 3 putts from inside 3 feet. “It was frustrating” Woods said, “I thought I had a chance to get up there in the middle of the round and instead I went the other way.”

Woods bright spot came on the 12th hole when he was able to drain his sand shot for birdie, hoping for a two shot swing with his playing partner. Woods was frustrated but when he hit that shot he emphatically turned to his partner in the Pro-Am, Tony Romo QB for the Dallas Cowboys, and said “Fuck Yea!” However Phil Mickelson and his nerves of steel walked up to his 30 foot par putt and drained it, sending Tigers confidence back to the dark hole it has been in and removing all hope. Woods would finish the final 3 holes bogey-bogey-bogey and shot a 75 on Sunday. He went from being just 4 strokes behind the leader to finishing -8 and tied for 15th place. It was so disappointing to see Woods shoot 68,68,67 in the first three rounds and have people thinking “is he back?” for him to just absolutely fall apart. I do think that Woods will get into the winner’s circle once again and when he does it will give him that mental boost he is in such need of but when will that win come?

The Pro-Am is always a great source of entertainment with PGA golfers playing alongside an amateur teammate but this year the competition ended in a tie. Last year’s winners were D.A. Points, who took the tournament, and actor Bill Murray who made the highlight reel wearing a full out ghillie suit and punting a football into the crowd this year. The tie this tournament was forced when the Irish duo of Padraig Harrington and J.P. McManus, a billionaire horse racing business-owner, birdied the final hole to finish with a -4 68. They tied Brian Harman and Gregg Ontiveros, the CEO of Group O, with a -35 251 for the tournament. The Pro-Am portion is entertaining but the results are defective because the way the tournament is played the amateur’s score is adjusted to their handicap and many feel that some of the amateurs were better than their handicap indicated. In the end it is all good fun and many of the amateurs had a better day on Sunday than Tiger Woods but nobody had as great of a day as Mickelson who’s 64 was 3 shots better than any other players final round score.

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