Mickelson and Garcia win the Battle at the Bridges


RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia teamed to defeat the higher-ranked duo of Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, 3 and 1, Monday at the Battle at the Bridges.
'It was fun,' said Garcia. 'We made some key putts to get us going on the front nine and then we just held on to it. It was fun playing with all three.'
2003 Battle at the BridgesMickelson and Garcia, both out of the top 10 in this week's World Golf Rankings and winless in 2003, upstaged Woods and Els, ranked 1 and 2 in the world with nine wins around the globe this year.
'You have to give Sergio and Phil all credit,' said Els, who was making his first appearance in the made-for-television event. 'They played great and they kept us under pressure.'
Mickelson and Garcia were 1-up when the teams made their way to the par-5 16th at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe, which Mickelson plays as his home course.
Both Mickelson and Garcia reached the green in two, under the lights and both balls stopped about 30 feet from the hole. Els knocked his second into a lake on the right side of the green, taking him out of the hole. Woods played his second into a bunker long and left of the pin.
Woods blasted out to 10 feet and Mickelson missed his eagle try. Garcia rolled home his eagle putt to the put his team 2-up with two to play.
Garcia and Mickelson both hit driver at the 17th and found the rough on the left side. Woods and Els laid up with irons and split the fairway, but neither hit approaches that put Mickelson and Garcia under pressure. Els landed 25 feet left of the cup, while Woods' ball checked up on the ridge and rolled down to 30 feet.
Garcia chunked his second short of the green from the rough. Mickelson, perhaps using some local knowledge, skipped his second 12 feet from the hole. Woods left his birdie putt short, a common theme for the top-ranked player, and Els blew his birdie putt past the hole.
Els and Woods conceded Mickelson's birdie putt to end the match.
'Sergio made a great putt there on 16,' said Woods. 'That really put us behind the eight ball.'
Mickelson and Garcia each pocketed $600,000 for the win. For Mickelson, this was his first venture into the exhibition match that brings golf to primetime. Garcia moved his record in the matches to 2-1 after beating Woods in 2000 and losing with Lee Trevino to Woods and Jack Nicklaus last year.
Woods and Els split $500,000 and now Woods is 3-2, including wins with Nicklaus, Annika Sorenstam and a win over David Duval in the inaugural event in 1999.
Mickelson and Garcia broke out of the gate quickly Monday when Mickelson hit an enormous tee ball at No. 1 and sank a 12-foot birdie putt. Woods had a 15- footer for birdie before Mickelson, but his putt skimmed the left edge.
No birdies were made at the par-3 second and Garcia cashed in a birdie attempt at the third to put his team 2-up. The teams halved the fourth and it looked like Mickelson and Garcia would forge ahead 3-up at the fifth until the South African flashed his short game.
Els was the only player to miss the green at 5, but he chipped in for birdie. Garcia's birdie putt missed the hole, but Mickelson drained an eight- footer for birdie to halve the hole.
At the sixth, Garcia won the hole with a 12-foot birdie putt to put his team 3-up. The higher-ranked tandem had some strong golf ahead, though.
Woods reached the green in two at the par-5 seventh, although Garcia was on the fringe. Garcia left himself with five feet for birdie after his eagle putt but Woods lagged his to tap-in range, forcing Mickelson and Garcia to concede the birdie. Garcia missed his birdie putt, leaving Woods and Els 2-down.
Woods hit a 5-iron two feet from the hole at the par-3 eighth and Mickelson was the only other player to reach the putting surface. His 35- footer for birdie narrowly missed and Woods tapped in for birdie to cut the margin to 1-down.
The teams halved the next two holes with birdies and then halved several holes on the back nine. Woods, in particular, struggled with the speed of the greens and missed a makeable eight-footer for birdie at 12 and a 15-footer for eagle at 14. He also missed a 20-footer for birdie that could have knotted the match at 15.
From there it was Garcia winning 16 and the match was over on the next hole.
'We didn't get off to the start we needed to,' said Woods. 'On top of that, I had some good looks at putts three holes in a row on the back nine and I didn't make them. I thought that was the key to try and get back to even.'
'It certainly helped knowing the greens,' said Mickelson. 'I felt like I had a lot of good looks at it but I never got to hit them because Sergio kept making every putt.'
The pace of play was slow, with the match coming in around 4 1/2-hours. All four players were miked but there was not a lot of chatter.
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