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Mickelson Pulls String on Woods

Golf: He comes up with two-stroke Tour Championship victory to end Tiger's four-year streak of protecting third-round leads.

November 06, 2000|From Associated Press

ATLANTA — Tiger Woods had two incredible streaks going this year. Phil Mickelson ended both.

Until Sunday, Woods had gone four years--and 19 tournaments--since the last time he failed to win a PGA Tour event after having at least a share of the lead going into the final round.

Mickelson snapped that string with a 13-under 267 total that won the Tour Championship and broke the tournament record set by Tom Watson in 1987.

It was the same Mickelson who had stopped Woods' streak of consecutive tour titles at six in February at the Buick Invitational in San Diego.

But Sunday, trailing by one shot going into the final round at East Lake Golf Club, all Mickelson cared about was putting pressure on the No. 1 player in the world.

"I didn't really expect him to win," said Mickelson. "I thought I had a pretty good chance. And I really like the position I was in, being one group in front and having them watch me make birdies."

With four birdies on the front to take the lead and no mistakes over the final five holes to keep it, Mickelson closed with a four-under 66 and took advantage of sloppy play by Woods down the stretch for a two-stroke victory.

In the Year of the Tiger, Mickelson earned a distinction--the only player to beat Woods twice down the stretch.

"It's a wonderful way to end the year," Mickelson said.

Woods, who shot a final-round 69, has one tournament left--the World Golf Championship next week in Valderrama, Spain--to try to become the first player in 50 years to win at least 10 times in one season.

As for his streak of protecting third-round leads, Woods figured it had to end sometime.

"I've had a lot of good things go my way," said Woods, who was one-over on the back nine. "I've been able to make key shots at the right times, and it has added into victories. Sometimes, I have played poorly coming down the stretch and have somehow snuck out a win."

This wasn't one of those days.

Poised to become the first back-to-back winner of the Tour Championship, Woods struggled off the tee and missed important putts he had been making all year.

None was bigger than the par-five 15th.

Playing in the pairing in front of Woods, Mickelson took the lead for good with an eight-foot birdie putt. This time, Woods chipped 12 feet past the hole and his birdie putt slid by.

"We were even with four holes to go, and that's where each shot was critical," Mickelson said. "To make that one and force him to make birdie to tie is a lot different that forcing him to make birdie for a one-shot lead. That turned out to be a critical shot."

Woods still had three more chances but couldn't hit a fairway to give a clean lie and a chance to hit it close.

The end came on the 17th. Woods pulled his nine-iron left of the green into shin-high grass framing the lake. He chopped it out 45 feet past the hole and took bogey.

"That's the way it goes when you don't have your best stuff," Woods said. "I grinded my butt off just to give myself a chance."

Mickelson earned $900,000 from the $5-million purse and won for the fourth time this year, two of those in Atlanta. Mickelson also won the BellSouth Classic in a one-hole playoff over Gary Nicklaus.

Vijay Singh, tied with Woods at 10 under, fell behind after a bogey on the first hole and dropped out of the picture for good when he failed to make birdie on the par-five ninth. Singh had a 73 and finished in a tie for third at 273 with Nick Price (67) and Ernie Els (69).

Woods knows he can still make history at Valderrama. "It would be nice if I did," Woods said. "But the fact that I won three majors in one year is not a bad thing, either."

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP

72-hole final

(-13) $900,000

Phil Mickelson

(-11) $540,000

Tiger Woods

(-7) $261,667

Nick Price

Ernie Els

Vijay Singh

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