Sunday, February 12, 2012
Phil Mickelson throttles Pebble Beach with final-round 64
Admit it, you most likely didn't give Phil Mickelson much of a chance coming into the final round of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Despite being only six shots back of Charlie Wi on Sunday -- Kyle Stanley and Spencer Levin will attest to those big leads being as safe as an open Brinks truck -- almost everyone had their eye on Tiger Woods.
And rightfully so. Woods, who was only four back, had the momentum after three consecutive rounds in the 60's, and finally looked primed to win his first official tournament in two-plus years. The stars appeared to be aligned for the comeback, but in typical Mickelson fashion, he found a way to take the spotlight away in the final round with one of the best Sunday performances we've seen in some time.
We know how good Phil Mickelson is; when you win three green jackets and a Wanamaker Trophy, you get respect from everyone in the game. But the thing is, nothing about Mickelson's play made you believe he'd be a factor down the stretch at Pebble. Sure, he'd been in the news lately, but it was for off the course stuff like redoing Torrey Pines' North Course and suing a commenter on a website.
It's funny how one incredibly good round of golf can change things in a hurry. Mickelson had been solid all week, but from the start of Sunday's final round it was like he suddenly found another gear that had been missing from his game for the past couple of months.
His 8-under 64 was the lowest final round to win at Pebble Beach since Davis Love III shot 63 in 2001. Simply put, he looked unbeatable, hitting 93 percent of his fairways -- Phil the Thrill was M.I.A. -- and rolling in some putts from a different continent. He also had a birdie, birdie, eagle stretch holes Nos. 4 thru 6 that saw him take a commanding lead he'd never relinquish.
Most of us thought we were seeing vintage Tiger Woods after three rounds, but it was actually Mickelson who turned back the clock with a round that has to make you wonder if we're seeing a resurgence from one of the game's greatest players.
Mickelson always said he had a couple more major championships in him, but the way he was playing prior to this week, most assumed his best golf was behind him. Boy were we wrong. The golf world found out on a cloudy Sunday afternoon that he's very much in the golf pictures, as he waxed Tiger Woods by 11 shots and won his 40th PGA Tour event.
It'll be interesting to see if this is a one-off from Phil or the start of a special year for him, but for at least one day, it looks like Lefty's back, and that's definitely a good thing for the sport.