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Mickelson cruises to victory by five shots

PEBBLE BEACH, California (Reuters) - Phil Mickelson shrugged off a lost ball and early double-bogey to win his 30th PGA Tour title by a record-equaling five shots at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Sunday.

The Masters champion, who says his driving has never been better, fired a sparkling six-under-par 66 in benign conditions to claim his third triumph on the Pebble Beach Golf Links.

Co-leader overnight with fellow American Kevin Sutherland, Mickelson overcame a double-bogey at the par-three fifth, where he overshot the green with his six-iron tee shot, to finish on 20-under 268.

The left-hander birdied three of the last four holes in glorious late afternoon sunshine to clinch his 10th title in his home state of California, matching the tournament record for winning margin and 72-hole total.

“I love coming back here and I’m excited to have won this tournament,” a beaming Mickelson told reporters after claiming the first prize of $990,000 to lift his career earnings above $40 million.

“I have never driven it as well as I’m driving right now. It feels very easy for me to hit fairways.”

The three-times major winner, who had not finished inside the top 40 in his first three events this year, missed only one fairway out of 14 in the final round.

Overall, he found the fairway 45 times out of 55 with preferred lies in operation for all four days.


“Certainly winning today gives me a lot of satisfaction but I think the coolest thing is I think I’m going to be a better driver of the golf ball for the rest of my career,” he added.

“To come out on top and start ‘07 with a victory gives me some momentum and I can’t wait for next week (the Nissan Open in Los Angeles) and the upcoming majors.”

Five players had previously triumphed at Pebble Beach by five shots, Aaron Oberholser most recently last year, while Mark O’Meara set the tournament low with a 20-under total in 1997.

Mickelson’s playing partner Sutherland birdied the last for a 71 and second place at 15 under with PGA Tour rookie John Mallinger a further stroke back in third, also after a 71.

Britain’s Greg Owen, boosted by an eagle-three at the sixth, fired a 67 to share fourth place at 12 under with Davis Love III (69).

Mickelson, previously champion here in 1998 and 2005, made a fast start in near-perfect conditions with birdies at the second and the fourth, where he rolled in a 12-footer.

Two strokes clear playing the par-three fifth, he overclubbed with his tee shot and had to declare a lost ball after a fruitless five-minute search.


After trudging back to the tee to hit his third shot, Mickelson boldly attacked the pin for a second time but was unable to sink a 12-footer there to escape with a bogey-four.

“I couldn’t believe what happened there because I hit a perfect six-iron right at the pin and had planned on it being 30 feet short,” Mickelson said. “It must have ridden the wind.”

He immediately recovered with a birdie at the sixth, where he almost holed out from a greenside bunker, before breaking clear of the chasing pack at the par-four eighth, where he struck his approach to within eight feet of the flag.

Further birdies on 10 and 11 stretched his lead to four before he dropped his second shot of the day at the par-four 13th after failing to reach the green in two and missing a two-foot par putt.

That blemish was a minor hiccup, though, with the tournament firmly in his grip over the back nine.

With precise driving and pinpoint approach play over the finishing stretch along the ocean, Mickelson set up further birdies at the 15th and 17th before signing off in style with a tap-in birdie putt at the last.