Phil Mickelson wins East Lake Tiger Woods the FedEx Cup

By Doug FergusonSeptember 28, 2009, 2:05 am

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ATLANTA – Phil Mickelson had the smaller check and felt like the biggest winner. Tiger Woods was congratulated after he finished second in the Tour Championship.

Sunday was the eighth time that golf’s two biggest stars finished 1-2 in a tournament.

Never have they shared the spotlight, each going home with a trophy that was meaningful in its own way.

Mickelson capped off a tumultuous summer at home with a spectacular rally at East Lake, closing with a 5-under 65 to go from four shots behind to a three-shot victory, his first since his wife and mother were diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring.

Woods made two late birdies, not enough to put any heat on Mickelson, but to secure the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus. It finished a season in which he won six times and was no worse than second in nine of his 17 tournaments.

“I like the way today went,” Mickelson said. “I was two back of him, I beat him by three. He gets the $10 million check, and I get $1 million. I’ve got no problem with that. I just love holding this finally.”

He motioned toward the crystal trophy of the Tour Championship, which has not belonged to him since he won in 2000 at East Lake by again rallying in the final round to beat Woods.

Mickelson finished at 9-under 271 and earned $1.35 million. He also collected $3 million for being second in the FedEx Cup. It was his third victory of the year, the 37th of his career and it pushed him back to No. 2 in the world ranking.

Phil Mickelson Tour Championship
Phil Mickelson fist pumps after chipping in for birdie on the 16th green on Sunday of the Tour Championship. (Getty Images)

“It means a lot to finish the year off on such a good note,” Mickelson said. “We’ve been through a lot, and I’m very proud of my wife and my mom on the fight that they’ve been through. We’re in good shape. Although day-to-day is tough, and it’s not easy for them, we’re fortunate that our long-term outlook is good.”

Woods stood on the 18th green with his biggest rival, perturbed by his inability to make putts inside 20 feet, trying to remind himself that he had a remarkable season coming off major knee surgery.

“I’m sure I would probably be more happy tomorrow than I am right now, because you’re in the moment trying to win this event,” Woods said. “Winning takes care of everything. But when you’re in the moment out there, I’m trying to win a golf tournament. I’m trying to beat Phil, he’s trying to beat me … we’re all there, and it was just a great leaderboard.”

It was a great finish to a FedEx Cup that was compelling to the very end.

Three other players had a chance to capture the big prize along the back nine at East Lake.

– Kenny Perry had a two-shot lead to start the final round and doubled it after two holes, only to implode with poor tee shots, bad chips and missed putts that led to a 74.

– As it became clear Mickelson was headed toward victory, Steve Stricker only needed to finish ahead of Woods. He was in position until he found mud on his ball in the 16th fairway, sailed the green and made consecutive bogeys to shoot 69.

“I knew it was close, put it that way,” Stricker said of the FedEx Cup race. “Whatever. I played my hardest.”

– Sean O’Hair stayed within range of Mickelson until he took a bogey on the 17th hole and wound up with a 69, alone in third.

“I was feeling the nerves a little bit out there, which was great to feel,” O’Hair said. “I just didn’t get it done.”

Mickelson’s only hope for the FedEx Cup was for Woods to finish eighth or worse, a remote possibility until Woods made his first birdie of the final round at No. 15, then ended a bizarre drought with a 35-foot birdie on the 16th. It was his first one-putt birdie in 24 holes.

Woods wasn’t paying a lick of attention to the FedEx Cup, only that other trophy.

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Player: Phil Mickelson
  • Event: The Tour Championship presented by Coca-Cola
  • Tour: PGA Tour

“All I know is I was three and four back, I just needed to push, needed a run or two or three birdies to get me right back in the ball game,” Woods said. “Unfortunately, that run didn’t happen until 15. And that’s a little late.”

Mickelson seized control with a 31 on the front nine, and his lone birdie on the back came from a chip-in out of a nasty lie behind the 16th green that essentially secured his victory.

Confident as ever from his putting tips from former PGA champion Dave Stockton, Mickelson rolled in consecutive birdie putts of 15 feet on No. 3 and 30 feet on No. 4, then pulled into a share of the lead with a pitching wedge that caught the lip at No. 8 for a tap-in birdie.

Mickelson played the final 20 holes of the Tour Championship without a bogey.

Woods only cared about the Tour Championship, believing the FedEx Cup would take care of itself. When he captured the cup two years ago under a different points system, he won the final two events, including a seven-shot win at East Lake.

“It feels certainly not like it did a couple of years ago when I won the tournament,” Woods said. “That felt a little bit better.”

Despite a one-shot lead through 36 holes at East Lake, Woods struggled on the greens Saturday and with the rest of his game in the final round. Except for his two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th, he had only four birdie putts inside 20 feet and missed them all.

“Phil played well. He did the things he needed to do this week,” Woods said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t putt well and consequently, I didn’t push him. Phil ran off and got away from us.”

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.