Mickelson holds off Stricker at Riviera|
Pacific Palisades, CA (Sports Network) - Phil Mickelson needed a pair of
birdies late in Sunday's final round to rally and beat Steve Stricker at the
Northern Trust Open.
Mickelson closed with a one-over 72 to finish at 15-under-par 269 and win by
one stroke. He became the seventh player to win this title in back-to-back
"It was an exciting finish. Obviously, I didn't want it to be that close. I
felt like I got off to a good start and wasn't able to keep it going," said
Mickelson, who collected $1,134,000 for the win. "But to fight through a round
where I didn't have my best stuff and to make some key putts coming down the
stretch and key shots, it feels terrific to pull off the victory."
Stricker, who bogeyed the 18th hole, carded a four-under 67 to take second at
Fred Couples (69) and Andres Romero (70) had their chances in the final group
alongside Mickelson, but couldn't get over the hump. They shared third place
with K.J. Choi (69) at 13-under-par 271 at Riviera Country Club.
Mickelson ran home a 38-foot eagle putt on the first to move five strokes
clear of the field and it looked like the rout was on.
However, he missed the green at that second and walked off with a bogey. He
dropped another stroke on the third after a poor tee shot.
Mickelson's lead was down to two, but he steadied himself with three straight
pars from the fourth. Another missed green on the seventh led to his third
bogey of the day, but he still led by two.
After four straight pars around the turn, Mickelson fell out of the lead at
the 12th. He three-putted for bogey to slip to 14-under, one stroke behind
Stricker birdied the first, then connected on back-to-back birdie chances from
the fifth. He stumbled to a bogey on No. 8, but kicked in a three-footer for
birdie on nine to move to 13-under.
At the par-five 11th, Stricker pitched his third within two feet and kicked
that in for birdie. He made it two straight with a six-foot birdie putt on 12
to move to 15-under.
Mickelson parred 13, then found a bunker off the tee at the par-three 14th. He
blasted to seven feet, but two-putted for bogey to slip two back.
Stricker parred five straight from the 13th as his best chance for birdie was
at the 17th, where he missed an 11-foot birdie try.
Playing two groups ahead of Mickelson, Stricker found the rough off the tee at
the 18th. His approach finished short in the right rough and he could not save
par from there, dropping him to 14-under.
Mickelson stuck his tee shot on the par-three 16th within five feet and sank
the putt to gain a share of the lead. He made it two in a row with a two-putt
birdie on the par-five 17th.
Heading to the last with a one-stroke lead, Mickelson found the fairway off
the tee, but his approach stopped over 60 feet from the hole. He rolled a putt
to six feet. Mickelson calmly sank the par-saver for his 35th PGA Tour title.
"It means a lot to me to get my game back in shape and to know the direction
I'm trying to go," Mickelson said. "But to be able to fight through it again
when I didn't have my best stuff and to be able to hit nine-iron on 16 to make
birdie and hit that driver and three-wood on 17 to make birdie...that made a
Stricker, who was playing this event for just the fourth time, posted his best
finish here despite the late stumble.
"It was a good day. I got off to a good start," Stricker stated. "I made
birdie at 12 and then really had a difficult time getting my driver on the
fairway, all of a sudden. A couple of poor swings led to my bogey at 18. But
overall, a good day. It was exciting to get into the thick of things and to
feel the heat of the battle."
Rory Sabbatini climbed within one of the lead, but was done in by a double-
bogey on the 16th and a bogey at the last. He closed with a one-under 70 to
share sixth place with 1989 champion Mark Calcavecchia (69), Luke Donald (68)
and J.B. Holmes (68) at 12-under-par 272.
Second-round leader Scott McCarron closed with an even-par 71 and ended 11-
under-par 272 alongside Brendon de Jonge (67) and last week's winner Dustin
02/22 19:31:58 ET