Phil Mickelson wins duel at Doral to win WGC-CA Championship

By Associated PressMarch 15, 2009, 4:00 pm
2007 WGC CA ChampionshipDORAL, Fla. ' No longer the best player without a World Golf Championship, Phil Mickelson won a spirited duel at Doral on Sunday to win the CA Championship and put himself in position to reach No. 1 in the world.
 
Mickelson, taken to a hospital on the eve of the final round with heat exhaustion and dehydration, survived seven lead changes in 11 holes against Nick Watney before hanging on with seven pars for a 3-under 69 and a one-shot victory.
 
Mickelson won for the second time in three starts and moved to No. 2 in the world ranking, as close to Tiger Woods as he has ever been. Depending on how Woods fares at Bay Hill, Mickelson might have a chance to go to No. 1 when he plays again.
 
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson's short game was the key to his victory at Doral. (Getty Images)
Winning this tournament was all that mattered.
 
Mickelson finished at 19-under 269 and earned $1.4 million, the biggest check of his career.
 
Four years ago, Mickelson lost a two-shot lead against Woods in a duel that ranks among the best ever at Doral. He didnt get his revenge against the worlds No. 1 player, but Watney gave him all he could handle.
 
It took a lot out of me, said Mickelson, who sipped on energy drinks throughout the round. I havent eaten much in three days. I fought hard. Ive been playing some of my best golf, and Im very excited to have finished it off.
 
Watney closed with a 2-under 70, holing an unlikely chip for birdie from behind the ninth green, then making an eagle on the 10th to pull into a tie for the lead. Needing a birdie on the 18th hole, which yielded only three in the final round, Watney thought his 30-footer was good until it stopped one turn away.
 
He pulled his cap over his face, and could only watch as Mickelson took two putts from 25 feet away for par and the victory.
 
Ill get over this, Watney said. Its a positive week. I played really well. Beat 78 of the best players in the world. Beat Tiger, which is always good. Im very pleased with the way Im playing.
 
Woods, in his first stroke-play event since winning the U.S. Open, closed with another 68 to finish eight shots behind in a tie for ninth, but at least kept one streak alive. He has never finished out of the top 10 on the Blue Monster.
 
I didnt get anything out of my rounds, Woods said. I hit the ball a lot better than my scoring indicates.
 
Jim Furyk shot 31 on the back nine for a 67 to finish alone in third. Jeev Milkha Singh had a 70 and was alone in fourth, his best result in a PGA Tour event.
 
But the show throughout a steamy afternoon on the Blue Monster belonged to Mickelson and Watney, who went into the final round tied for the lead, both pupils of swing coach Butch Harmon, both having won over the last few months.
 
They said this wouldnt be match play, but it sure looked like it.
 
Including ties, the lead changed seven times over the first 11 holes, with momentum swinging in both directions.
 
No one made a serious run at the leaders until Furyks late charge, but there was plenty of action in the final group. What set the stage for the back-nine duel was a stunning turnaround at the par-3 ninth.
 
Mickelson, who fell behind for only one hole with a bogey at No. 4, built a two-shot lead when Watney made bogey from the bunker on No. 7 and Mickelson ripped a 3-wood from 256 yards over the water just over the par-5 eighth green for a birdie.
 
Mickelson was safely on the green at No. 9 when Watney pulled his tee shot over the green and down a ramp between the television toward and the grandstand. With nearly a dozen practice swings for a delicate shot, he flopped it up the slope, onto the green and charged up the hill when it dropped for birdie.
 
Just like that, he was only one shot behind. And with two beautiful swings on the par-5 10th, he had an 8-foot eagle putt. Walking toward the green, Watney rolled his shoulders and pushed his palms toward the ground, reminded himself to stay calm.
 
He holed the eagle putt and was tied for the lead, but that was as sharp as he got.
 
Making a bogey from the bunker on the 11th was one thing, but he let Mickelson off the hook on the par-5 12th.
 
Lefty went well to the right and into the bushes, although he could see enough of the ball to consider swinging from the other side. He inverted a wedge for his right-handed shot, but it struck a tree and stayed in the rough. Mickelson took four shots to reach the green and made bogey.
 
Watney only had a 4-iron to the green and made bogey. He caught another nasty lie in the bunker, and this time caught it fat and left it in the bunker, eventually missing a 6-footer for par.
 
I feel like I gave away two shots there, Watney said. Having 4-iron to the green and making 6 there was pretty disappointing. I guess thats going to happen over 72 holes. Just try to work hard and come back better next time.
 
Mickelson is looking better than ever.
 
He won at Riviera three week ago, and his victory at Doral made it six straight seasons of winning multiple times, the longest active streak on the PGA Tour. He now has 36 victories to tie for 12th with Lloyd Mangrum on the career list.
 
And while he still hasnt reached the top of the ranking, Mickelson is more concerned with peaking for the Masters a month away.
 
I cannot wait for that tournament to come, Mickelson said.
 

Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - WGC-CA Championship
  • Full Coverage - WGC-CA Championship
  • Getty Images

    Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

    By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

    Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

    Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

    So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

    How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

    1. Stay healthy

    So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

    Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

    Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

    2. Figure out his driver

    Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

    In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

    Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

    Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

    That won’t be the case at Augusta.

    3. Clean up his iron play

    As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

    At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

    Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

    That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

    Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

    4. Get into contention somewhere

    As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

    In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

    “I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

    Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

    And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

    “It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

    Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.

    Getty Images

    Players winner to get 3-year exemption into PGA

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 8:01 pm

    Although The Players isn’t golf’s fifth major, it received a boost in that direction this week.

    The PGA of America has adjusted its criteria for eligibility into the PGA Championship, extending an exemption for the winner of The Players to three years.

    According to an official with the PGA of America, the association felt the winner of The Players deserved more than a single-year exemption, which had been the case, and the move is consistent with how the PGA Tour’s annual flagship event is treated by the other majors.

    Winners of The Players were already exempt for three years into the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship.

    The change will begin with this year’s PGA Championship.

    Getty Images

    Thomas: Playing in front of Tiger even more chaotic

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas may be going from the frying pan to the fire of Tiger Woods’ pairings.

    Translation: He’s going from being grouped with Woods last week in the first two rounds at the Genesis Open to being grouped directly in front of Woods this week at the Honda Classic.

    “Which might be even worse than playing with him,” Thomas said Wednesday.

    Typically, the pairing in front of Woods deals with a lot of gallery movement, with fans racing ahead to get in position to see Woods’ next shot.

    Thomas was quoted after two rounds with Tiger at Riviera saying fans “got a little out of hand,” and saying it’s disappointing some golf fans today think it’s “so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we’re trying to hit shots.”

    With 200,000 fans expected this week at the Honda Classic, and with the Goslings Bear Trap pavilion setting a party mood at the 16th green and 17th tee, that portion of the course figures to be quite lively at PGA National.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    Thomas was asked about that.

    “I touched on this a little bit last week,” Thomas said. “I think it got blown out of proportion, was just taken out of context, and worded differently than how I said it or meant it.

    “I love the fans. The fans are what I hope to have a lot of, what all of us hope to have a lot of. We want them cheering us on. But it's those certain fans that are choosing to yell at the wrong times, or just saying stuff that's completely inappropriate.”

    Thomas said it’s more than ill-timed shouts. It’s the nature of some things being said.

    “It's one thing if it's just you and I talking, but when you're around kids, when you're around women, when you're around families, or just around people in general, some of the stuff they are saying to us is just extremely inappropriate,” he said. “There’s really no place for it anywhere, especially on a golf course.

    “I feel like golf is pretty well known as a classy sport, not that other sports aren't, but it has that reputation.”

    Thomas said the nature of the 17th hole at PGA National’s Champion Course makes it a more difficult tee shot than the raucous 16th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Typically, players like to hear fans get into the action before or after they hit shots. Ill-timed bluster, however, makes a shot like the one at Honda’s 17th even tougher.

    “That hole is hard enough,” Thomas said. “I don't need someone yelling in my ear on my backswing that I'm going to hit it in the water, to make it any harder. I hope it gets better, just for the sake of the game. That's not helping anything. That's not helping grow the game.”

    Those who follow golf know an ill-timed shout in a player’s backswing is different than anything a fan says at a football, basketball or baseball game. An ill-timed comment in a backswing has a greater effect on the outcome of a competition.

    “Just in terms of how much money we're playing for, how many points we're playing for ... this is our jobs out here, and you hate to somehow see something that a fan does, or something that they yell, influence something that affects [a player’s] job,” Thomas said.

    Getty Images

    Rory: Phil said RC task force just copied Europe

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 7:21 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Playing the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy quizzed Phil Mickelson about what the Americans got out of the U.S. Ryder Cup task force’s overhaul.

    McIlroy and Mickelson were paired together at Pebble Beach.

    “Basically, all they are doing is copying what the Europeans have done,” McIlroy said.  “That's what he said.”

    The Europeans claimed their sixth of seven Ryder Cups with their victory at Gleneagles in 2014. That brought about a sea change in the way the United States approached the Ryder Cup. Mickelson called out the tactics in Gleneagles of captain Tom Watson, who was outmaneuvered by European captain Paul McGinley.


    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


    The Americans defeated Europe at Hazeltine two years ago with that new European model.

    “He said the first thing they did in that task force was Phil played a video, a 12-minute video of Paul McGinley to all of them,” McIlroy said. “So, they are copying what we do, and it's working for them. It's more cohesive, and the team and the core of that team are more in control of what they are doing, instead of the PGA of America recruiting and someone telling them what to do.”