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Mickelson Cruises to Win at Pebble Beach

2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson waited until late last year, when his clubs were collecting dust during a three-month break from golf, to reflect on a U.S. Open meltdown at Winged Foot that suddenly seemed to overshadow all his achievements.
Instead of sulking, he found a solution.
And while his five-shot victory Sunday in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was hardly a case of redemption, it at least changed the conversation about him from the past to his potential.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson is greeted by his daughter Sophia on the 18th green after his win. (Wire Images)
Those worried about emotional scars from his double bogey on the final hole at Winged Foot can relax.
Mickelson finally got his season on track by closing with a 6-under 66 to tie the 72-hole tournament scoring record, win for the 30th time in his career and become only the third player in PGA Tour history to surpass $40 million in earnings.
Determined to become a better driver, Mickelson was all that and more on a surprisingly sunny afternoon. He missed only one fairway, turned a tight race into a runaway with three birdies in a four-hole stretch along the ocean and emerged again as a threat whenever -- and wherever -- he tees it up.
'Winning today gives me satisfaction,' Mickelson said. 'I believe I can take what happened at Winged Foot and make it a plus for the rest of my career. I think I'm going to be a better driver of the golf ball for the rest of my career. At least, that's the goal.'
That's what he did in the final round, and no one else had a chance.
So complete was his performance at Pebble that Mickelson was among the top five in driving accuracy, greens in regulation, putting and driving distance. The five-shot victory matched the largest margin since Bing Crosby started this tournament in 1937.
The only drama came on the par-3 fifth hole when Mickelson hit a 6-iron he thought would be short. It caught a gust and flew over the green and into shin-high grass, never to be found and sending him to a double bogey.
Six holes later, he had a four-shot lead and was sailing toward a 20-under 268 total, tying the record set by Mark O'Meara in 1997.
Kevin Sutherland missed a half-dozen putts inside 8 feet, but his birdie on the 18th hole gave him a 71 and second place alone. He spent so much time being asked about Mickelson that he finally grinned and said, 'A lot of questions I've gotten today feel like U.S. Open code.'
'Phil's game hasn't gone anywhere,' Sutherland said. 'He played tremendous today. And he's going to be a force the rest of the year.'
It was the 11th time in 15 seasons that Mickelson won on the West Coast Swing, and the timing couldn't have been better.
He started his season slowly, and missing the cut last week in Phoenix turned up the talk on whether he would find his game.
Now, he looks as if he's about to hit his stride.
'This is exciting,' Mickelson said. 'I've gotten off to a good start. It gives me momentum, and I can't wait for next week and the upcoming majors. I'm really excited about the year.'
Sutherland fell out of contention by missing consecutive birdie putts inside 8 feet on the seventh and eighth holes, then hitting a 9-iron over the green at No. 9 and taking double bogey. John Mallinger, a 27-year-old rookie, shot 71 and finished third.
The lost ball provided some anxious moments, but it turned out to be a mere bump on an otherwise smooth ride.
Mickelson hit 6-iron at the flag on the par-3 fifth and stared it down until he lost sight of it, and for good reason. It sailed clear over the green, and not even the marshals saw where it went. When he arrived and saw a search party combing through the weeds, it took a second for Mickelson to realize what was going on.
'Hey, Bones,' he called out to caddie Jim Mackay, 'they're looking for ours?'
They looked hard, but Mickelson eventually walked back up to the tee, again went at the flag and hit it to 10 feet. He missed the putt, and the double bogey dropped him back one shot behind Mallinger.
Mickelson bounced back with a nifty bunker shot to a foot for birdie on the par-5 sixth, then poured it on. He made a 6-foot birdie on No. 8, a 15-foot birdie on No. 10 and spun back a sand wedge to 10 feet for a birdie that gave him a four-shot lead.
'Those were the key birdies,' Mickelson said.
Mallinger acquitted himself nicely in only his eighth career start on tour, and first time in contention. He didn't made bogey until the 11th hole, but fell too far behind with a three-putt from 12 feet on the par-5 14th.
That left Mickelson another casual stroll down the 18th fairway, the blue ocean to his left, the sunshine casting long shadows on the emerald green fairways.
Next up for Mickelson is the Nissan Open at Riviera, an unexpected change in his schedule. He hasn't played there since 2001, has never finished better than 15th and has missed the cut in four of his eight starts.
The way he's hitting the ball, he can't wait to get there.
'I have never driven it this well. It's very easy for me to hit fairways,' he said. 'That's why I'm excited about playing Riviera, I'm excited about playing tight courses. I'm really excited about the year.'
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