Mickelson Tops Tiger at Tour Championship
Playing in the penultimate group, Mickelson birdied the first hole and never looked back en route to his fourth PGA Tour victory of the season at the Tour Championship. The lefty fired a 4-under-par 66 to better Woods by two shots at 13-under, and, in the process, snap Tiger's streak of 19 consecutive PGA Tour wins when having at least a share of the 54-hole lead.
Woods may have played in the final group with Vijay Singh Sunday at the East Lake Golf Club, but it was Mickelson with whom he was battling for the title. The Fijian carded a 3-over-par 38 on the back nine and never factored into the final outcome.
Mickelson began the day one shot back of Woods, but quickly placed his name at the top of the leaderboard with a birdie 3 at the first. Mickelson, who defeated Woods at this year's Buick Invitational, produced four birdies over his first nine holes to move to 13-under-par for the tournament, one shot clear of Woods by the time he made the turn.
'Playing in the group in front made a big difference,' said Mickelson, who earned $900,000 of the $5 million purse. 'I knew if I could get off to a good start and make some birdies I could apply some pressure. You know you have a limited number of holes to catch the leader.'
Tiger captured a share of the lead when Mickelson bogeyed the par-4 13th, however, Mickelson reclaimed a one-shot advantage with a birdie at the par-5 15th.
Trailing by one at 12-under-par, Woods lost any chance he had of garnering his 10th Tour title of the season at the par-4 17th. Tiger's tee shot found the right bunker - for the day, Woods hit only seven of 14 fairways. Woods' next shot went from bad to worse. The world's No. 1 ranked-player dreadfully hooked a 9-iron well left of the green into the spinach. Tiger failed to save par and dropped two shots back of Mickelson, who parred his final three holes to finish at 13-under-par.
Now two down with one to play, Tiger needed to ace the par-3 18th to force a playoff.
Impossible? Remember, this is Tiger Woods we're talking about.
However, this time there would be no addition to the legend. Woods tee shot from 239 yards finished 15 feet from the flag. For the record, Tiger missed the birdie putt to shoot a 1-under-par 69.
'I grinded my butt off just to have a chance,' said Woods. 'I played the same way last week (at the National Car Rental Classic), but on an easier golf course.'
Woods didn't leave Atlanta empty-handed. He captured the $200,000 bonus for winning the Fall Finish, which is based on a points system over the final nine PGA Tour events of the season, excluding the Tampa Bay Classic.
Tiger also collected a runner-up check of $540,000 to move to $9,030,821 for the season. Woods will have one last chance to break the $10 million mark for the season at next week's WGC American Express Championship, which awards $1 million to the winner.
Mickelson won't be making the trip to Valderrama, Spain, for the season finale. Mickelson joins, among others, Americans David Duval, Tom Lehman and Hal Sutton as players who will not be in attendance next week.
In any case, this is the perfect ending to a near-anonymous spectacular season.
'It's a wonderful way to end the year,' said Mickelson, who finishes the 2000 campaign with over $4.7 million in official earnings.
This is Mickelson's 17th career PGA Tour victory, and the second time he's recorded four wins in the same season. Mickelson adds this title to the one's he collected earlier in the year at the Buick Invitational, BellSouth Classic and MasterCard Colonial.
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